Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer
Immaculate Conception Church, Vega, Texas
St. Hyacinth Church, Amarillo, Texas
My favorite author is Cormac MacCarthy. His novel, All The Pretty Horses, set in Texas, won the National Book Award in 1992. In 2005, No Country for Old Men made into a movie and won four Academy Awards. His next book, The Road won the Pulitzer Prize and was also made into a movie.
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book but, after I started reading it, I had to lay it aside. Its theme was too dark for me to continue.
The story opens on a dark and brutal world where every institution has been destroyed: every business, every farm, every hospital and branch of government. There is no food, water, electricity or transportation. All that’s left are ruined buildings. No animals, no plants survive the apocalypse. Bands of cannibals roam the country. In the middle of this story: a father and his young son slog their way to the ocean in hope of escaping starvation and the coming of winter.
This is a bleak way to open today’s homily. What does it have to do with us, in our current situation? Well, thanks be to God, we’re not in an apocalyptic circumstance like that father and son in the movie, The Road. Yet, sometimes, our perception of the world is, in its own personal and desperate way, equally bleak and oppressive: we hear of wars and rumors of war; the unspeakable violence on the border between Texas and Mexico casts its shadow closer to Amarillo with every drug bust on I-40; economic security remains untenable for countless individuals and families.
On the personal level, despite the amazing technology of our time, we retain secrets: secret fears and secret tears. Is there anyone here who does not carry a past hurt or betrayal in their heart like a clinker in a stove?
These troubles are real. And they are heavy.
In times of darkness and doubt, to whom do we turn? Where is our anchor, on what do we rely?
The story of the Lord’s Transfiguration is an encounter with a glimpse of glory, a respite of hope on the road to Calvary. For a moment, the apostles were stunned and terrified. Yet the vision they saw, and the Voice they heard managed to soothe their doubts and fear. For just a moment they encountered—and knew they had encountered—the presence of God falling about them like sunlight on a summer day. And when the incident it was over, they looked around and all they saw was Jesus.
Why did this occur? For what purpose did this take place? Because, come Good Friday, they would need this memory. In the days of confusion that followed Jesus’ horrific crucifixion, the experience on Mt. Tabor would mark their way out of the fog.
Mt. Tabor remained in their memory. Like a tent, it offered the solace of a privileged meeting. Like a tabernacle, it contained the memory of the Presence of the God whom the universe itself cannot contain.
This past week, I had a conversation with a couple of high school students from one of my parishes. A girl and a guy. We were talking about the Mass and the importance of attending Mass. But as they talked about their life and the pressures of their life—academics, athletics, SAT scores, part-time jobs, friends on drugs—my mind wandered. Not because I was not interested in their concerns, but because I was endeavoring to help them connect their concerns with the power of the Mass.
And so, I imagined the three of us in a scenario like that presented in the movie called The Road. If we had to scrounge for food…if we needed a knife to defend ourselves…if our clothes were tattered and rotten and our bodies stank for lack of water to wash the grime of destruction from our skin and the infection from our sores…. If we were on such a road and came across a ruined church, would we dig for the a tabernacle amid the debris so as to retrieve a few crumbs of the Eucharist in our hands?
In other words, when all our dreams and projects disappear; when the Kingdom of Today vanishes, where do uncover the Kingdom of God?
The answer is Bread. The answer is Bread. It has always been Bread.
When the people of Israel wandered lost and hopeless in the howling wind of the desert,
God gave them bread from heaven to eat. At this Eucharist today, we too touch Bread that’s so much more than bread! We touch God. We touch the Lord. Like a boy reaching for food from his father’s hand, our spirit grabs for God. Like a girl running to the arms of her mother, our souls hug the neck of God! Like refugees in a time of war, we must dig in the rumble and debris of our world to find the Tabernacle!
Why? To hold the Consecrated Bread in our hands, that’s why! When all else is gone, pray that the Sacrament remains! Because, to hold the Body of Christ is not some mere symbolic action, it is not some sentimental reminder, it is not some cheap souvenir that Jesus left behind from his visit to earth.
No! To touch the Eucharist is to hold the hand of the Holy One, the Only One who can pull us through whatever might come.
Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
The Church echoes Christ’s words of hope: “Dig and don’t stop digging,” we urge our youth, our friends, our fellow parishioners. “Dig through the rubble and trash of this world until you find the Tabernacle of the Savior!”
And where do we find this Tabernacle? We find it here, in our church, the Church that proclaims his True Presence in the Bread. The Bread that is his Body. The Body of the Lord. The Body we touch. The Body that is our anchor.
Our anchor in every storm.