Thursday, August 18, 2005—Homily at Second Catechesis

Animator Brian Casey, St. Paul-Minneapolis, USA


Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist

[Texts: Exodus 16:6-15; Psalm 147:12-20; John 6:51-58]


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:


The Scriptures that we have just heard today tell us about the grumbling about food that was heard among the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, yearning to enter the land flowing with milk and honey.  Do we have echoes of that here with the food service?  The lateness of the delivery, the misunderstandings about just when it would be serve, the wait times for the food to be heated—you name it, we’ve probably experienced it. 


And that’s why we love, after times like this, to get home and have some “comfort food”.  It’s different for each one of us and would not be the same for each culture or ethnic group or continent.  One of the great things I often found while my Mom was still living was to drop in and have one of her meals: now she could cook!  And my sister’s comes pretty close to, since she learned under my mom’s direction, though Marion has also added some of her own stylish additions which I am fond of as well.


When the Israelites put their minds to grumbling to the Lord about the food they had to eat on their “pilgrimage” to the Promised Land, they looked back in wonder at their “comfort food”: leeks and garlic, meat and onions!  What the Israelites failed to see in their grumbling, of course, was that God was there with them looking after them through all their adversities.  Only thing was, they thought they knew better than God what the provisions for the journey ought to have been.  And they let God know they were not impressed with the manna: they wanted meat and so God sent them quails until they were stuffed!


Have you ever thought of the Eucharist as comfort food?  It anchors us and assists us to journey with one another on the way to God’s kingdom.  I deliberately want to mention the social dimension because Scripture tells us we cannot really discern, grasp appreciate the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and consecrated wine unless we also at the same time are open to seeing him and serving him in those in need: the stranger and orphan, the hungry, the naked, the hospitalized and imprisoned, in the refugee, the AIDS victim, the person marginalized for whatever reason. 


Blessed Adolph Kolping is one of the holy people Pope John Paul II named as examples for us to learn about, admire and imitate ad we have come from all over the world to the Church of Cologne.


The social upheaval of the 19th century’s industrial revolution took place later in Germany than in England, but its effects were just as devastating and Adolph Kolping not only took note of them but determined to do something about them.

He had been born in Kerpen, not far from Dusseldorf and started off in life as a shoemaker—a very practical trade—before hearing a call to be a priest, which led to his ordination at the age of 32. He lived out his priesthood in an extraordinary way.  You see, the rise of the factory system in 19th-century Germany brought many single men into cities where they faced new challenges to their faith.

Father Kolping began a ministry to them, hoping that they would not be lost to the Catholic faith as was happening to workers elsewhere in industrialized Europe. So he ministered to these young workers in Cologne, establishing a choir, which by 1849 had grown into the Young Workmen’s Society.  As he served he developed a three-part focus to help the workers: stressing community spirit, the dignity of work and the value of family life.  His spiritual formula caught on and by 1865, there were over 400 Gesellenvereine (Workman’s societies) around the world. Recently it was estimated that the Kolping Society has over 400,000 members in 54 countries around the world.

The Eucharist then cannot be reckoned as only “comfort food” for it also drives those who share in the Body of Christ to go forth and to share with others the rich and abundant fare that God has given us in Jesus.  Isn’t that a great reality to celebrate in this Year of the Eucharist?