Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Joy of the Gospel Preached to a Priest

"First Week." That's what everyone at the BU Catholic Center calls the first week of school. It means much more than just "the first week of school." It means an all-out offensive to reach out, meet, and welcome new students. Every day is filled with events designed to allow new students ("new" meaning first time students and also students who have never been part of the community) to discover the beautiful friendship that exists among the Catholic community at Boston University. It is amazing how much work the Catholic Center students put into "First Week." This year, we had a particularly great First Week. It's completely exhausting (and the next few weeks will be more of the same), but it is that good kind of tired. It's the kind of tired that comes from knowing that the Holy Spirit is at work in our community.

Today (Sunday) kind of marked the end of First Week--even though it really is the beginning of a new week. Our Masses had that "something great is happening" feel. I want to share just one thing that transpired this week.  It was basically the very last thing that happened during First Week. I don't have experiences like this very often, but it really stopped me in my tracks. And, I know that when I try to write about it, it will fall short and not sound all that impressive!

Tonight after our last Mass of the day, I was leaving the church and noticed a young man (a graduate student) whom I had met last Sunday. He was kneeling in prayer. As I passed by, he came over to say hello. We chatted for a few moments about how his first week at BU was going, and then I said, "You always looks so happy."  (He was smiling and just had a very joyful expression on his face.)  He said, "Really?" I said, "Yeah, you're always smiling." What he said in reply was spoken with such purity that it actually made my eyes fill up. Smiling away, he said, "Oh, well I just received Holy Communion."

He didn't say it in a way that sounded "Holy Roller." There was a beautiful purity and sincerity to it. In that moment, I knew that I had just heard the Gospel proclaimed to me. It was like a homily, a retreat, a theological course on the Eucharist all in one brief sentence and in one smile. "Oh, well I just received Holy Communion." These simple words spoken with such joy and purity were a total surprise to me. In that brief moment, I realized that God was speaking to me. God wanted me to love the Eucharist more. God wanted me to believe in the Eucharist more. God wanted me to be filled with greater gratitude and joy for the gift of the Eucharist. That brief encounter was filled with the joy, freshness, and newness that are hallmarks of the Gospel. The Gospel never is old, and its newness and power are never exhausted. 

Although we went on to speak about a few more things, my mind and my heart were still in that moment when he testified to the Eucharist. Even now, a few hours later, I am still struck by that beautiful encounter. The purpose of First Week is to reach out to new students and to evangelize them. This year's First Week culminated in a new student evangelizing me. When we gather--two or three in the Name of Jesus--He is in our midst. He speaks to us and teaches us. We encounter the beauty of truth.

All true Catholic Evangelization begins from and leads to the Eucharist. I bet our churches would be filled if all of the Catholics who received the Eucharist on Sunday had joy and happiness written all over their faces on Monday. People might ask us, "Why are you so happy?"  All we would have to say--with simplicity and purity--is, "Oh I just received Holy Communion yesterday."

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