Every now and then we have one of those experiences which come unexpectedly and powerfully into our life and change it for ever. Sister Angela's visit was like that. She needed something from the church and I took her there.
We walked in through the side door. The church was empty. I was chatting to her about something or other and suddenly realised she was no longer beside me. I looked back and there she was - on both knees, her head bowed, motionless, facing the tabernacle.
I genuflected and waited for this young Sister to finish. She took her time and seemed not to notice my embarrassment.
Actually, it was a wonderful, powerful moment of correction for me. A reminder that I had grown careless, that I was taking things for granted. Her deep consciousness of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and her simple, spontaneous act of homage touched me deeply and will never be forgotten.
These days I always make a point of genuflecting before the Lord and sometimes people say, 'Aren't you overdoing it a bit? Why do you need to genuflect every time you pass the Blessed Sacrament?' and I say, 'Because if I don't, I will forget.'
If only Moses could get through to the people as easily and as effectively as Sister Angela got through to me. We catch a glimpse of him in the First Reading today.
Moses said to the people: Remember ... the Lord your God ... do not forget ... the Lord your God.
Can you see Moses there, standing before his stubborn people? Can you see the expression on his face? Tired, patient, hopeful, that this time they will take notice of him. Poor man!
He is standing before his people who have already a number of times betrayed the God who set them free from slavery in Egypt. Poor Moses!
No sooner had the Lord brought them through the Red Sea to safety and freedom than they forgot his power and began to complain. 'We have no food' - and he gave them manna. 'We have no water' - and he brought forth water from the rock. 'We have no meat' - and he gave them quails by the thousands. But still they kept forgetting their Lord and his care for them.
When Moses had gone up the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments from God the people couldn't even wait for 40 days. They simply forgot the Lord and made a golden calf to dance around.
No wonder Moses' favourite word to the people seems to have been 'Remember, remember, remember ...'
And our Gospel begins: Jesus said to the Jews ...
The Jews - they are the same people Moses spoke to. And now it is not Moses but Jesus who stands before them. Such a wonderful message, the Good News, the word of life!
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
Will the people, will anyone accept these words? How difficult is the task of the prophet! Most of them just walked away!
Well, right now it's me who finds himself standing before the people. My message is the same message of Jesus - the message of God. I will put it before you bluntly:
The bread we eat at Holy Communion is not bread, it is the Body of Christ. The wine we drink at Holy Communion is not wine, it is the Blood of Christ. The bread and the wine only look like bread and wine. They are, in fact, the Lord himself, Jesus Christ, in his body, blood, soul and divinity. In other words, when we receive Holy Communion we receive Jesus himself under the appearance of bread and wine. We don't know how this happens. We accept it in faith because we accept the word of Jesus. Do you believe him? I do.
But wait, there's more:
If we are to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Communion we must be 'in communion' with the Church and with Christ. In other words, we must not receive Holy Communion if we are conscious of mortal sin. If we are conscious of mortal sin we must first be reconciled through face-to-face sacramental confession before we receive Holy Communion. To receive Holy Communion when we are conscious of an unconfessed mortal sin is to commit a sacrilege. You don't want to do that!
Well, how's it going? Are you still with me or are you, in your heart or in your mind, walking away?
I pray you have accepted this teaching - it is not mine - it is the Church's teaching, Jesus' Church, and therefore it's his teaching, straight from the mouth of the Lord. And let us always remember that we live on 'everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord'.