As we now make the transition from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I want to pause our reflections in order to consider the great blessing of our Eucharistic Congress that took place this last Saturday at the BOS Center in Springfield. At the conclusion of the Mass that closed the Eucharistic Congress, Bishop Paprocki said that he knows that he will always remember that day, and I have been reflecting on that as well. In my nearly eleven-and-a-half years as a priest, I think that day ranks as one of the greatest highlights. I have certainly been to bigger gatherings, with thousands more people at them, but there was something that made this day for more special.
The talks were all amazing, and for those who you who had the chance to hear them, I hope you found them fruitful as well. I was pleased to hear Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, whose friendship I have enjoyed for the past several years, talking about making Mass the priority in our lives. In particular, I loved how he offered some very helpful and practical ways of preparing for and praying at Mass better, something I have enjoyed writing on in these bulletin articles. One of the greatest joys of the day was sitting in the front row as Sister M. Karolyn Nunes, F.S.G.M. gave her talk. I count Sister M. Karolyn as one of my very best friends, and to be there to hear her share such an inspiring talk brought me so much joy, first for the gift of what she shared and second for the gift of her friendship. I am sure I will be processing many more of the graces from that day in the days and weeks to come, and for those of you who were able to be there, I hope you do the same.
Perhaps the greatest grace for me from that day was the experience of the closing Mass. As I sat among my brother priests, looking out on the huge crowd of so many familiar faces, I kept thinking: “This is what Heaven is going to be like!” In Heaven, we will all be united as brothers and sisters in the Lord, friends of one another who rejoice in the gift of those relationships. In Heaven, we will be united with one another as we praise God, surrounded by the beautiful music of the choir of angels. On Sunday, as we resumed our Sunday masses at the Cathedral, that thought continued to stay with me. I caught myself thinking that same thing a few times during those masses: “This is what Heaven is going to be like.” Of course, as amazing as our Masses may be here on Earth, gathered as brothers and sisters to praise God, these experiences are merely a morsel of what awaits us in Heaven. But until we get to our final destination, what a gift it is for us to have the Mass to lift our hearts as we receive this foretaste of the Heavenly banquet that awaits us in the Kingdom.
Earlier this week, we celebrated All Saints Day, and the experience of the Mass at the Eucharistic Congress was the image that was in my mind and my heart. The saints are experiencing the fullness of what we have only tasted, a fulness that will continue on for eternity. As filled as my heart was from last Saturday, I know the Lord has more in store for me and for all of us. From their place in Heaven, the saints are praying earnestly for us to persevere in our journey, so that we can one day join them in that experience of the fullness of joy, peace and friendship with one another as we gather together to worship the Lamb unceasingly.