EUCHARIST: 40 for 40

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 13, 2022

St. Paul – Lyons, KS

Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1:1-5, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26

“I woke with a lightness this morning that can only be the result of God’s forgiveness and time spent in His presence.”

~St. Paul’s Walking with Purpose Participant
The Year of the Eucharist & The 40 Hours Devotion

As I mentioned last week, Bishop Kemme has declared a Year of the Eucharist for all of us here in the Diocese of Wichita. Because even though the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith—everything points to and is directed toward the Eucharist, and everything flows from the Eucharist—even though the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith, it can easily be set aside as “a nice thing.” And so often it is. Like I mentioned last week, only about 50% of our parishioners attend the Eucharist each Sunday—in other words, 50% of Catholics don’t show up to the source and the summit of their Faith. Half of our parish, half of the Catholics in town stay away from the Eucharist on a regular or permanent basis.

And so our Bishop has called on us to renew our belief in the Eucharist—because only when we have placed the Lord at the center of our lives will we be able to share with others why they should place it at the center of theirs as well. All during this year, there will be an emphasis on believing, celebrating, adoring, and living the Eucharistic mystery. Then, and only then, will we be able to respond to God’s call and become fully alive as His missionary disciples.

Last week I spoke about our belief in the Eucharist—how it’s not just “a nice thing,” but it is the Divine Coal, the Coal from the heavenly altar in Isaiah’s vision, the dangerous food with transformative power. But today, I want to focus on our need for adoring this Eucharistic mystery. We’ve all heard of a Holy Hour, right? Adoration? Every Monday we have Adoration here in the church? Do we know what that is? Good. Adoration of the Eucharist is an incredibly important and powerful element of our Faith.

And so this Lent, during the forty days of Lent, we are going to do what is called a Forty Hours Devotion. Once a week, for the six full weeks of Lent, Sunday after the Spanish Mass until Mass on Tuesday morning, we will have perpetual adoration here in the church. Forty hours of adoration.

There is a long history of the Forty Hours Devotion, but essentially it is a devotion in imitation of the forty days of fasting of the Lord in the desert—forty days in the desert, forty hours in prayer (so it’s especially appropriate to do it during Lent). And since a person will take one hour at a time, it is also an imitation of the one hour Jesus spent in the garden of gethsemane the night before he was crucified.

“Why is Fr. Michael having us do this?” It’s simple, really: as you begin to center your lives and your hearts on the Lord himself, this hour will change your life. It changed my life, and I have no doubt—no doubt!—that it can change yours.

Trust In Ourselves or Trust In the Lord?

The thing we have to do, though, is address the elephant in the room, the one big temptation. And I’ve talked about this a lot. Because really, “there is only one temptation. All particular temptations are expressions of this one original or ‘primordial’ temptation. [And] this is the temptation to believe that the fulfillment of the desires of the human heart depends entirely on us [on you, on me]. Dependence on another leaves us at the mercy of what we cannot control. [And so] we are tempted to reject all forms of dependence” (Albacete). 

That’s what our readings are all about today: trust in human beings—and end up cursed—or trust in God—and be blessed (that was Jeremiah’s big point). Or the beatitudes: go after riches, and food and stuff, and entertainment and parties, and making sure people flatter you and you never say anything that’s not politically correct—and end up in a tough spot—or be the one who is poor, hungry, weeping, hated—and be blessed. Poor, hungry, weeping, hated—that is a person who has accepted a life of complete dependence.

Remember Jesus’ forty days being tempted in the wilderness? Over and over again, the temptation was the same: Jesus was tempted to reject his dependence on the Father. He was tempted to reject the plan the Father had for him, to take destiny into his own hands, and to depend only on himself. Why? Because this is what the devil does: he tempts us to deny our need to depend on Another, and instead to depend only on ourselves, our own ideas, our own strength. But throughout his life, Jesus continues to do one thing: he always points out that he is doing not his own will, but the will of the one who sent him (e.g., John 5:30 and 6:38).

And to the very end Jesus struggles with this. From forty days of being tempted in the wilderness all the way to the one hour in the garden. He is tempted to the point of sweating blood. And in a final surrender he prays, “Not my will, but your will.” The forty days of temptation, the lifetime of temptation to reject his dependence on God culminate in that final hour in the garden. That hour is an hour of complete dependence on God.

In this hour in the garden, Jesus faced a simple question that would determine the entirety of his life. And the question was: “Will you entrust your life to me, even though it will mean your life?” In this hour Jesus surrenders everything to the Father: “Not my will, but your will be done.” And it is in this moment that he also asks his disciples, “Could you not watch one hour with me?” This is the hour that changed his life. He still could have walked away from it all, from the suffering, from the cross. But in that hour, his life was forever changed. And he invites his disciples to that same hour as well, because he knows it will change their life.

The Hour That Changed My Life

Case in point. As I’ve shared before, I first heard the call to the priesthood while in adoration. I was at Totus Tuus camp one summer (right over there at Camp WaJaTo), and one night was set aside for an hour of adoration and confession. Now, I had not been to confession in eight months, and so I was pretty nervous about going. But I went. I got up and went. Instead of depending on myself, I made the act of turning everything over to the Lord. And when I came back to the chapel, when I came back and was giving thanks to God, in front of the Eucharist, it was there, in front of the Eucharist, that I first heard: “Michael, I want you to be a priest.”

All throughout high school I would stop at the adoration chapel at my home parish, just for a few minutes. When I was coming home from cello lessons, or from running errands, even when I was on my way home from hanging out with my friends: I would just stop at the chapel and pray, just for a few minutes—but there in front of the Eucharist. When I was deciding where to go to college, I remember biking to my parish every day just to spend time in prayer and adoration. And all throughout this time, I knew what the Lord was asking me to do—to be a priest—but I was still looking for the courage, for the strength. I was caught-up in the temptation that the fulfillment of the desires of my heart depended on me: I was caught-up in that primordial temptation.

It was during my freshman year at Benedictine College that I decided to enter seminary. And lo and behold, guess what was at the center of the story? Adoration. I played rugby at Benedictine, and one thing the rugby team would do once a month was help the Monks with all night adoration on a Saturday night; we would take the slots throughout the night. And so on one particular Saturday night I was in adoration—at 3:00am. The next day was Divine Mercy Sunday, and I was helping my friend with a holy hour he was organizing for Divine Mercy Sunday. And so that weekend, spending two hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament—it was at that time that I was finally able to accept the call of the Lord. There in front of the Eucharist, in one of the countless Holy Hours of my life, my life changed. Literally the next day I called the vocation director and went to meet with him to begin the process of joining seminary.

But look, at the center of it all was one thing: Adoration of the Lord in the Eucharist. Now, God isn’t calling all of you to be a priest, I get that. (He is calling some of you! He is calling some of you to be a priest or to be a religious sister.) But he is calling all of us to holiness, to discipleship, to follow him. My dad, for as long as I can remember, has had a holy hour; for most of my life it was at 3 or 4am. Do you think he got the strength to raise his family, to be a husband and father by depending on himself? No. My sister who is a nun, do you think one day she just decided to go to the convent? No, she spend many hours in prayer, many many hours in adoration. Following the Lord doesn’t happen magically, it takes a commitment, it takes prayer, it takes time. But especially in Eucharistic Adoration.

40 for 40

So during the Forty Days of Lent, we will be doing Forty Hours Devotions each week. We’re calling it “40 for 40” (you know, just plagiarizing ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary name). There are sign-up sheets under the TV in the gathering space; I would encourage you to make a commitment for this Lent. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving—prayer is something we do during Lent anyway, so this could be perfect. And I get it, committing to an hour of adoration a week can seem like a lot—but it can change your life. Adoration of the Eucharist can change your life—it changed mine. Don’t be afraid to sign up for those late hours of the night, the early hours of the morning! “Could you not watch one hour?”

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