The Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the Mandate to Love: A homily for Holy Thursday

HOLY THURSDAY PHOTOOn this holy night, Holy Mother Church instructs all priests to preach on three things: 1) the Eucharist, 2) the priesthood, and 3) and the mandate to love. The Church has good reason for this instruction; it was on the first Holy Thursday, during that first holy week, when Jesus celebrated the First Holy Mass, ordained his first priests, and commissioned them to go about the mission of love, the mission of service.

First, the Eucharist. There are a lot of images for the Eucharist. Wheat, a basket of loaves, fish, grapes, etc. My favorite is the pelican. It is said that when a mother pelican’s baby chicks have nothing left to eat, she plucks her own flesh and gives it to her children. She feeds them with herself. Like the Lord Jesus, she loves her own—and she loves them to the end. She would rather die that they might live, than watch her children die. This is the Eucharist. It is about love. The Eucharist is Jesus loving us until the end—that we might have life, and not just life on earth….but life in heaven. If people understood the Eucharist they would never walk away from the church. Never. If people truly understood the Eucharist, we would never have an open holy hour or an unfilled Mass. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ. Tonight we thank him for giving us himself.

Second, the Priesthood. Because of Jesus’ love and his desire from that love to pass on the Eucharist and the other sacraments, he instituted the priesthood. A man I know in Bloomington prays a rosary every day for “greater devotion to the priesthood.” That is wise. He is praying not for greater devotion to this priest or that priest, but to the priesthood. When I think about the priesthood, I think about the priests I know and how they have brought me closer to Jesus. I think of Fr. Ron Ashmore who baptized me. I think of Fr. Charlie Chesebrough who heard my first confession and gave me my first communion, and who always called me “big Mike” and made me feel special. His presence was larger than life. He was the first one to tell me: You should go to the seminary. I think of Fr. Don Davison who we lovingly called the Prince of Darkness. You’d have to know him to understand that title. His mind is a labyrinth and his every homily took me deeper into the beauty of my Christ and his beautiful church. I think about Fr. Joe Moriarty, my spiritual director, and the holiest man I know. His heart is as close to the Sacred Heart as one could ever find on this side of heaven. I think about Fr. Mike Fritsch who taught me the importance of good liturgy, Msgr. Stumpf who guided me into the seminary and still, even as vicar general, hasn’t forgotten about me. I think about Msgr. Svarczkopf, my first pastor as a priest who made me love being a priest. I think about my friends who have made me a better priest: Fr. Rodriguez, Fr. Aaron Foshee, Fr. Aaron Pfaff, Fr. Michael Cronin, Fr. Adam Ahern, Fr. Meyer, Fr. Luke Waugh. The list could go on. These men are Christ to me—they’ve heard my confessions, anointed me, blessed me, laid hands upon me, led me, nourished me, strengthened me, given me counsel, confected the Eucharist for me countless times. They have me Christ. I love them all in their weakness and in their brokenness.

Less than a week ago I found a letter in a file cabinet. I was doing some spring cleaning in the middle of the night. This letter was three pages about how evil and awful this person believed my processors here to have been. It broke my spirit to read it. It made me angry and then it made me sad. I burned it. None of those priests were perfect; nor am I. Some of them were great preachers and some terrible preachers, some struggled with demons we will never know. Some were friendly and some weren’t, some were liberal and some were conservative. Some of them think like I do and some don’t. Some made decisions I like and some did not. But all of them are forever priests of Jesus Christ who bring souls to heaven and heaven to souls. All of them gave up their lives for Jesus and his church. How dare we speak ill of any of them. I thank God for each and every one of them. And I thank God that I am a priest, that God has allowed me to stand under the floursent lights of hospital rooms and guide souls to the kingdom and comfort those who watch their loved ones fade away, that he has allowed me to stand at his altar and bring to the world his body and blood every day, that he allows me the grace to sit in the confessional in order to listen to life’s disappointments and failures and absolve sins and loosen their chains. I thank God that he has allowed me the grace to stand at the door of the church and in his place open my arms wide to receive a soul for baptism and pour the waters of salvation onto beautiful baby’s heads. I thank God that he allows me the grace to teach religion class and play basketball, help the poor, instruct RCIA and lead a youth group and visit the elderly, all in one day’s time. I love it.
Third, the mandate to love. No greater love is there than this. Our Protestant friends call today Maundy Thursday because that word “maundy” comes from the same Latin word as mandate – mandatum. Jesus gives us an incredible example of service in washing the feet of his apostles. We are to serve beyond what we are comfortable with. We are, like Christ, called to love others until the end—without condition, without reservation, just as he did.

The Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the Mandate to Serve. Those are the three reasons we are never alone. We are never alone because we always have the eucharist, we always have our priest, we always have the call to serve.

Friends, Mass ends in a different way tonight. Mass ends with a procession to this side altar, what’s called the altar of repose. Jesus will be in the tabernacle until 11pm, about the hour that he was arrested. Catholic churches around the world have altars of repose tonight because after trhe Last Supper, Jesus invited his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane to pray with him before his passion. All are invited to the altar of repose after Mass. Please pray there for your priests. Pray for me. Thank God for the Eucharist, help him to convict you more of his Real Presence. And pray that God will help you to understand where he is calling you to serve and give you the courage and heart to do it.

As always, audio is here.

Psalm 63 and the Eucharist: A homily for Corpus Christi (A)

Today I preached on Ps 63 and its Eucharistic nature and themes, as they related to our readings beautifully.  The psalm goes like this, and I’ve put some thoguhts in brackets:

O God, you are my God, for you I long; [We are born with a longing for God. Which means we are born with a natural desire for the Eucharist]
for you my soul is thirsting. [We thirst for love, communion, peace…the Eucharist is all of that]
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water. [without the Eucharist, we thirst to death…we pine–that is, we languish, we suffer, our spirits and souls wither up and die by what Msgr Pope calls “spiritual starvation.” Jesus says in today’s gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”]
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory. [adoration!]

For your love is better than life, [Jesus is better than everything! A piece of the host is worth more than all the gold int he world, all that we have]
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands. [Faced with the Eucharist, how would we do anything but praise God, bless him, lift up our hands to him???  And yet some, leave, or take Eucharist for granted, or show no reverence.]
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, [Yes! He gives us a banquet. Every day!]
my mouth shall praise you with joy. [The Eucharist brings us joy!]

On my bed I remember you. [REMEMBER…the mandate of the first reading]
On you I muse through the night [We should think of God at night. Most turn to the snares of the devil at that time. Thinking of God is a good antidote]
for you have been my help; [the Eucharist, our help]
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice. [the Eucharist, our protection]
My soul clings to you; [the Eucharist, our union with God]
your right hand holds me fast. [the Eucharist, our deliverer]

Our Eucharistic Fountain and Light: A homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

16105859_10108397410593719_7524347432524888877_nGood morning.  My name is Fr. Mike Keucher and I’m the associate pastor at Our Lady of the Greenwood.  I’m happy to be with you today. You have a persuasive pastor. He called some time ago to see if I could come here today, and I told him we have six Masses at OLG, and I had a wedding, etc….but by the end of the phone call he had me thinking that he was doing me the favor!  And maybe he was.  This place is simply breathtaking–as are the other three campuses–and it is a true grace for me to be celebrating Mass at these four campuses this weekend. Thanks for having me.
Continue reading

“O Come Let Us Adore Him!”: A homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Year A)

mary-and-eucharistA happy new year to all!  In today’s first reading from Numbers, God speaks to us an ancient and beautiful blessing: The LORD bless you and keep you!The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!  Beautiful!  It is God’s desire to bless us in this new year. We thank God in this Holy Mass for all our blessings from 2016 and pray his blessing upon our 2017.

But I want us to think about a couple years way back. Continue reading

The Eucharist, our everything: A homily for Corpus Christi Sunday (Year C)

13315429_10107167285040189_1574944991576668239_nOur first reading is two sentences. Our second reading is five sentences.  My homily is also short. All of this is because there are no words–not from any priest or bishop of pope or anybody else–that amount to one tenth of the importance and glory and beauty of the eucharist. The eucharist is our strength, our power, our salvation–our everything.

St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote the beautiful sequence we just chanted, wrote a lot. He wrote the Summa Theologia, and lots of poems and songs and sermons and such on the eucharist. One day, he left his daily holy hour and famously said, “All that I’ve ever written is straw compared to Jesus in the monstrance.”

That man had a profound love for the eucharist.

I just want to ask you today: how much do you love the eucharist? Do we love the eucharist enough to take a holy hour in the adoration chapel? Do we love the eucharist enough to come to Mass each Sunday, to invite others to it, and even to maybe come to a daily Mass during the week? Do we love the eucharist enough to live our lives, our marriages, in such a way that we can receive the eucaharist on Sunday in good conscience? Do we love the eucharist enough that we receive it devoutly, with utmost care?  Do we love the eucharist enough to ensure our children learn about it so they will never leave it behind?

There is one man in this community. One night each week, at 9:00, he takes his children to our adoration chapel to pray with them and with the Lord. He loves the eucharist and he loves his children enough to bring them to our Eucharistic Lord!  What a great man, what a great father!

Today, we love the eucharist enough to go on procession with him. This is a grand tradition of the church. In our scriptures, we see Jesus in the streets and awful lot. He likes it there. Jesus wants to be out in the streets, on the roads, in the cities. He wants to flood the world. That’s what happens on today’s feast.

St Paul: Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Mary’s first holy hour – A homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

fe3a761d475b5f9200b8f489df56bfc1Yesterday evening I had the joy of spending some time at St. John’s in downtown Indianapolis.  Some friends and I had gone to dinner downtown at RAMs and we wanted to usher in the new year with the Holy Mass. That was the biggest reason we wanted to go to St. John’s. But I also wanted to briefly catch up with Fr. Rick and to spend a few moments enjoying the beauty of that church. Another reason I wanted to go was to steal Fr. Rick’s homily.  I am not going to share all of it, but I do want to share something he said that I find very moving

He said that Mary was the first one to go to adoration. He said it in passing but I find it very profound. Mary was the first to adore. That got me thinking about what Mary’s first holy hour must have been like.  As she held the baby Jesus in her arms, she worshiped him. She praised him. She cried in love.

All her troubles evaporated, her anxieties faded away, her difficulties and trials melted into nothing. She was lost in wonder, love and awe.  She learned from him, as our Gospel notes. She received blessings from him, blessings mentioned in all our readings today. She received strength and meaning. She received things she probably never could put words to.

All this should sound familiar, because that should be what we experience in our own holy hours in the adoration chapel. We have a lot of excuses why we can’t do adoration. I’m too busy, too tired, too young, too much not a theologian. That was Mary. But she gazed upon that child Jesus, and as she adored him, she must have wondered how she ever lived without him.

I’m told by parents of brand new babies that there is something of a haze of amazement that comes upon them when they hold in the arms their child for the first time. Tears flow, the heart grows wider and wider as they behold their beloved child.  Even those of us who are not parents know what it is to be lost in amazement at the miracle that is, well, someone else.

But whatever those feelings, we know that what Mary, the Mother of God experienced was something so much more, for she gazed not only upon her own son, but upon the Savior, the Messiah, God himself as she held him in her arms during that first holy hour. Just as we ought to when we adore.

We stand today just over the threshold of a new calendar year. This year, what if we made a resolve?  A resolve to adore the Lord.  A resolve to do a holy hour in our adoration chapel once a week, or every day if you’re gutsy.  A resolve to put ourselves in front of Jesus, to bear him in our arms like Mary did as Theotokus (God bearer), to get a SON tan.  A friend of mine in the seminary said that we don’t have to be experts at prayer. He said, “The way I look at it, it’s like going to the beach. You can sleep, read, contemplate, run, do a rosary–whatever–but no matter what, you’re going to get a tan.” Adoration is the same way.

Let us make a resolve this new years bear Christ as Mary did, to adore him, to learn from him, to let him take all our anxieties and fears and troubles away. Even as we hold him in our arms. Even as we gaze upon him. I promise you will not regret doing a holy hour. You will say along with Mary, “How did I ever live without this?”

Fr. Rick invited all the folks at St John’s to pray through the intercession of Mary and JP2 for God’s blessings upon them as they begin to offer more adoration times downtown and work towards eventually opening their own adoration chapel. I invite you to pray for that as well–to have a chapel downtown would be such a grace!  I also invite you to pray for the continued flourishing of our adoration chapel here.  Countless lives have been changed in it, just as Mary’s was changed in her first holy hour. Pray God our lives will be among those changed there.

By the way, these are the hours that have nobody. We need someone to take them so that poor Anne doesn’t have to do them all. Tuesdays 6-7pm, Fridays 1-2pm, Fridays 5-6pm, and Saturdays 3-4am.

Happy 2016.

Remarks at the end of my Mass of Thanksgiving

11206080_10206828114639754_6476941917516130444_nI have been warned to keep things short, that less is more. But my brother recently reminded me of the wisdom of Fraiser Crane. In preparing a project said, “Ah yes, but if less is more, imagine how much more more could be!” But I know you might feel churched out, which is a good thing to be….so I’ll see.

I’ve been wondering about the perfect, most creative way to share all the gratitude in my heart. I’ve tried that before and failed. The last time I offered words at this church outside of a homily was my eighth grade graduation. I remember how I ended my speech. I ended by quoting Forest Gump. I ended my specch by saying, “Life is life a box of chocolates. Thanks for making mine delicious.” I remember waking up the next morning thinking, “Did I really say that?” Let’s hope I can do better than that today, but I’m afraid the sentiments will be the same.

Continue reading