Every fall the Kalamazoo Diocese holds a priestly convocation. This is a meeting of all the priests of our diocese
and the Bishop. The meeting is usually held in Cadillac or at a retreat center. These meetings are used to help us learn where speakers
are invited in to teach. These meetings also help the priests and Bishop to better know one another and to build fraternity. And there’s
always good food.
I went to my first convocation soon after my ordination. I had a great time, mostly. As is the custom in this Diocese the newly ordained
is usually the main celebrant for one of the daily Masses during the week. No pressure there, you’re preaching to the Bishop and
fifty other seasoned priests. I had a month and a half of experience under my belt, no problem. On my day to preside, it was the feast
of St. Pio and in my homily I talked about St. Pio and how he was a good role model. No one could disagree with that. The homily
went fine there were a few smiles and a few laughs at the appropriate times. And there were no grimaces or scowls, so far so good.
When I got to the prayers of the faithful, however, I realized that I’d forgotten them in my room. I was in a panic for a second, but
that’s ok, I said a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit and made up the prayers on the spot. They were fine they didn’t sound too weird. The
Mass was going beautifully, the Bishop was smiling.
Now there’s a saying I learned in seminary, “The only perfect liturgy is in Heaven.” And there’s a good reason for this saying. Because
after finishing the Consecration, not mispronouncing a single word, something awful happened, something I never would have
imagined. In all the scenarios of what could go wrong I never imagined this. The altar collapsed. I don’t know why it fell but it did.
And the precious blood spilled everywhere. This was after the consecration it was no longer wine. Fortunately there were a couple of
priests with very quick reflexes in the front row. They along with me grabbed the chalices before they rolled off the altar. Fortunately
no Precious Blood spilled to the floor. All was contained to the altar linens and my chasuble.
This incident, awful as it was, made all the more poignant the message, “His blood was poured out for our offenses.” I saw it pour out;
I saw it spill, right before my eyes. In great art we sometimes see Angels depicted with chalices catching our Crucified Lord’s blood.
That thought sometimes goes through my mind as I elevate the chalice filled with his blood. “I’ve captured your blood Lord, it didn’t
fall wasted to the ground.” This blood was shed for our benefit; his heart was pierced for our benefit. In John’s gospel we read, “One
soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” This lance was thrust right into the heart of Jesus.
In our beautiful crucifix we see that wound at his side. That water that flowed out represents baptism and that blood that flowed out
represents the Eucharist, sacraments that strengthen and heal. It’s from the Cross that the healings flow.
In today’s Gospel we read that Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.” He approached,
God is always after us, he’s always approaching us. Never think for a moment that he’s not reaching out for you. God always
initiates and it’s always a loving action that he initiates. From that heart that was pierced flows the love of God.
We next read that Jesus grasped her hand and helped her up. Jesus is still doing that, when we approach the Eucharist he in a very real
way is grasping us. Are we reaching out to grasp his hand as the mother-in-law did? Are we reaching out to be healed? Every time we
come to Mass every time before we walk down these aisles we say something important. We say, “Lord I am not worthy that you
should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Are we asking to be healed as we come down the aisle
to receive the Eucharist, are we asking to be healed of traumatic memories, are we asking to be healed of strained relationships, are we
asking to be healed of anxieties, and ailments? Are we asking to be healed of whatever is troubling our soul?
Every Mass allows us to take part in the onetime bloody sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. The Mass allows this participation, as if in a
time machine, in an unbloody manner we are there on Calvary for His passion when his Heart was pierced out of love for us. All the
good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men and women; but the Mass is
the Work of God. It is the sacrifice of God for us. When we look at a crucifix we see the true intention of God, it’s not about himself,
it’s not about God, it’s about you and me.
As you come down the aisle for Communion asked Jesus to heal you in whatever way you need healing. His heart was wounded so that
we might gain entrance into his heart, His heart was wounded so that we might receive his healing blood, and His heart was wounded to
give us his all. Ask for healing at this Mass and every Mass.
Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley