Chaput's homily at the Votive Mass of the Eucharist at the Eucharistic Congress
will run as a series in the Register. The
First: Isaiah 50:4c-9a;
Psalm: Psalm 116:1-2,3-4,5-6,8-9;
Second: James 2:14-18;
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35
By Archbishop Charles
"The Lord God
opens my ear that I may hear, and I have not rebelled, have not turned back
. . ."
Those are the first
words of our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, and in preparing my
thoughts for today, they led me to a story.
In 1936, a young Jewish
boy named Aaron found a hiding place in his home where his parents kept
a key. It was the key to a locked bookcase near the piano in his living
room. And being an avid reader, and because he slept in the living room
each night, he began to secretly read the books. His parents were Jewish
by birth and proud of their heritage. But they had no particular religious
beliefs. For some reason, though, they had a copy of a Christian Bible in
their bookcase - and Aaron began to read it.
Many years later,
Aaron wrote that:
impressed me was that there was a continuity between what is called the
`Old Testament' and the New one. From that time on, the reading of the New
Testament took a place in my Jewish consciousness. For me, it dealt with
the same spiritual subject, the same benediction, the same stakes - the
salvation of men, the love of God, the knowledge of God . . .
"[I saw immediately
that] Christianity is the fruit of Judaism . . . I believed in Christ, the
Messiah of Israel . . . And I knew that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ
In 1940, against the
will of his parents and without any coercion - or even an invitation - from
his Christian friends, Aaron presented himself for baptism. And, like Isaiah,
he never rebelled and never turned back. He persevered in his love for Jesus
Christ despite the Holocaust; despite the anti-Semitism of people who called
themselves "Christian" but didn't know the Gospel; and even despite
the murder of his own mother at Auschwitz.
The hunger for God
he found locked in that bookcase led him from the written word to the Word
made flesh; from baptism to seminary to priesthood, and to the miracle of
holding the body and blood of the Living God in his hands in the Eucharist
- the body of Jesus Christ, which redeems the world and feeds God's people.
Today, more than 60
years after first opening that Bible and hearing the Word of God, and more
than 50 years after encountering God's Word incarnate in the Eucharist,
that young Jewish boy is Jean-Marie Aaron Lustiger . . . the cardinal archbishop
of Paris, and one of the great witnesses of the Catholic faith in our lifetime.
Now, there are two
lessons to this story.
First, God's Word
has power. It "opens our ears that we may hear." It not only changed
Aaron's life, but through him, tens of thousands of others. And there's
a reason for that. Christian faith is not a set of ideas or moral principles.
It's an encounter with a living person, Jesus Christ, whom we find both
in Scripture and the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ lives.
Here, today, now. He lives tangibly - flesh and blood - in the Communion
we receive. That's why we call Jesus "Emmanuel" - the Hebrew word
for "God with us." The Eucharist is more than just a symbol, more
than just a community meal, more than just a sign of our unity. It's all
of those things, but much more than those things. The Eucharist is not "like"
the flesh and blood of God, or a "reminder" of the flesh and blood
of God. The Eucharist is the flesh and blood of God.