This weekend is one unlike any other. We have so much to celebrate, commemorate and remember. The newest of our Holidays, Juneteenth, commemorating the freedom finally arriving to those still enslaved two years after the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. We celebrate fathers and their unwavering dedication and commitment to family and handing on a legacy of faith and heritage of hope to their children. Fathers have a vital role to strengthening and sustaining our families. This all remembered on the great Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This great gift of Christ’s true and real presence given in Eucharist to the Church. As we celebrate Christ’s presence in Eucharist, we too are called to be the Body of Christ to the world. This weekend St. Joseph welcomes the Nigerian community of the Diocese of St. Petersburg in their first Nigerian Mass at St Joseph. They will celebrate every third Sunday at 2:00PM here at the Church.
So, as you can see there is much happening in this little parish on the Southside of St. Petersburg where “All Are Welcome.”
Fathers are vital to strength, support and development of our families. It is the love of a father and the legacy and heritage that they hand on to their children that I wish to invite us all to emulate as we reflect this week. We know that Fathers in union with their wives have the responsibility of shaping young lives for the future.
Today on Father’s Day we recognize and celebrate all types of fathers acknowledging the important role they have in our lives and the challenges that face our world at this time, not only to their immediate families, but also in our communities and society as a whole. Often, we first see a good father as a protector and provider, but his love and strength guides and forms the family especially as a father of faith. He protects his family no matter what. In protecting his family, he ensures that they have all they need to develop and survive. For us a Catholic community, the faith of the father and his love of Christ and the Eucharist is a great legacy and heritage that give the family a strong foundation, that they pass on to their children. It is important that as men, that fathers plan ahead when considering marriage and having a family. Together we are also responsible for the children in our society who do not have this in a father. Believe it or not there are children, in addition to your own, who are watching you. They see your love, dedication and faith. Fathers can be great models for manhood and fatherhood to the many who do not know their fathers nor have a relationship with them.
A father of faith should provide unconditional love to his spouse, children, and family. The union of the father and mother modeling love to their Children is crucial to the success of families. When the children in the family witness their parents in conflict, they grow up thinking that conflict is the norm. The absence of loving parents adversely impacts children. The child who does not witness love is unsure of how to give and receive love and affection when they mature into adulthood. We see clearly that the domestic Church must be deeply and profoundly rooted in faith, a union of unconditional love and together are strengthened through their sharing in the divine life offered by Christ and in sharing in the Eucharist.
As we celebrate this great Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we are brought to the centrality of our faith. The legacy handed down to us by the Apostles and the early church fathers. Paul handing on that which he received is not only a reminder to us of the handing on of the faith, but it is a call and commissioning of us to do the same. In Paul’s writing to the Christians of Corinth he reminds them saying.
“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.”
Paul reminds us that it was from the Lord himself, his experience of Christ and what we are sure was testimony from the Apostle Peter, that faith and truth are handed on. This handing on has become for us the heritage of our faith that we celebrate today. That Christ has not left His Church alone, but rather is ever present to us through His precious Body and Blood. As I mentioned last week our celebration of this great feast like the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity and Pentecost as well as Easter, must be recognized within the context we are living and experiencing on a daily basis. Placing the truth of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist in today’s context impacts and strengthens our lives for what lies ahead of us.
In Eucharist ordinary gifts of bread and wine are presented, consecrated and transformed into the true and real presence of Christ, His body broken, and blood outpoured for us. We too need to experience the transformative power of Christ through our sharing in the Eucharist. We bring to our celebration each week, our hopes and dreams, our disappointments, sorrows and pains. All that we are with our weaknesses, struggles, challenges and all that impacts us. Do we realize that there is nothing happening in our lives, the life of our nation and world that we cannot bring to Christ in the Eucharist? You see Eucharist impacts and transforms our lives through our celebration of the Mass, to our participation in Eucharistic adoration, bringing Eucharist to the homebound. Not only do we look upon Christ, but he in turn gazes upon us. He sees and knows our needs, our pains, hopes and sorrows. Eucharist is an intimate sharing in the Divine Life of Christ. It is within this context of our sharing in Christ’s body and blood that we unite to Christ the needs of the suffering, those on the peripheries, the hungry, the homeless, the forgotten and unloved. Our participation in the Eucharist must shape us to be the body of Christ for a world in so much pain. We become that which we eat and share the divine life in Christ with a broken world whose blood too is being poured out day and night, from unjust wars like in Ukraine to the hundreds dying in our schools, shopping centers and workplaces across this country, don’t forget the daily deaths of youth in our cities whose lives go unnoticed by the media.
Freedom had been deferred for many enslaved African Americans following the Emancipation Proclamation. Slave owners had failed to convey the message of the president and continued to hold captive those held in slavery who had been pronounced free. We live in a society and world where many are enslaved to fear, fear of the other, fear of the unknown and fear of what is to come. This fear turns into to violence and hatred against those we fail to know or understand. Even today our nation cries out to be free. For many African Americans there is a desire to be free of the obstacles and structures that hinder us from achieving our goals and dreams for a better life for ourselves and our children. Families cry for freedom from fear and worry as they send their children to school each day, trusting that those responsible will keep them safe. Many of us seek freedom from leaders who have their own personal gain, greed and power as their constituents instead of truly caring for all of the American people.
So let us celebrate, commemorate and remember all that we have this weekend to remind us that we are not left alone. That this is hope for tomorrow as people of faith are willing to step up to the challenge and call to be their better selves, strengthened by the very presence of the God who created and loves us, to work for freedom, justice and peace for all. Be blessed this weekend and celebrate Life, Freedom and Faith!