HOLLADAY — The Diocesan Lenten Retreat brought hundreds of people to St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Holladay on March 4. About 175 people attended the English session, the largest crowd in recent memory, said Susan Northway, director of the diocesan Office of Religious Education. The English session in the morning was followed by a bilingual Mass at which Bishop Oscar A. Solis presided. Afterward was a lunch, attended by both the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities. The retreat in Spanish, which was in the afternoon, drew about the same number of people.
“This is a day and a time for us to open our hearts, quiet ourselves and listen to how the Holy Spirit will bring words of comfort and joy and hope,” Northway said as she introduced the retreat in English.
The presenter for the retreat in both languages was Father José-David Padilla, OP. A native of Colombia, Fr. José-David has a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical School of Theology of San Esteban of Salamanca, Spain. He teaches at Barry University in Florida.
The topic of the retreat was the Eucharist. Fr. José-David divided the English session into three parts: the Eucharist’s biblical roots, the theology of the Eucharist and the celebration of the Eucharist. His presentation was lively, often drawing laughter from the audience.
The oldest biblical record of the Eucharistic celebration is in 1 Corinthians, Fr. José-David said. In that letter, St. Paul criticized those who welcomed to the Mass only people of their own social standing. For Christians, who are all brothers and sisters, “it is … scandalous to see that we deny the Lord’s banquet to those who need it the most,” Fr. José-David said, explaining Paul’s message.
The Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, “means Jesus’ life being poured out for all of us,” Fr. José-David said. Likewise, Christians are called “to act and behave just like Christ, [so] that people, when they come to contact us for anything, they will see in each and every one of us another concrete experience of God being in the midst of us.”
The Eucharist is “not something spiritual, something that takes us away from this material world, but very concrete: We have to become a good experience of God, a concrete experience of God,” Fr. José-David said.
The Mass is more than just a remembrance of the Last Supper, he said. During the Mass, Catholics say, “‘When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.’ How do we proclaim it? … We proclaim it by becoming yourself what Jesus is all about;” a Catholic’s actions and life should be a reminder “of the presence of Christ in the midst of us until Christ comes again,” he said.
The Eucharist, “this bread that becomes Jesus himself,” gives not only sustenance but life eternal, and by eating it “we become the family of God,” Fr. José-David said.
To eat Christ’s body and drink his blood “is to once again say, ‘When I participate in this food, I am making myself another presence of Christ for the world out there that is so hungry and in need of more than just ordinary food,” he added.
The Sunday Eucharistic celebration is the most important because of the obligatory presence of the community; it is the summit toward which all Church activity is centered and also the fount from which all flows, he said, as the people of God gather to give thanks and to participate in the goodness of God.
The Eucharistic celebration is a joyful union with God and with each other in the Body of Christ, he said.
Fr. José-David repeated, in many different ways, that Christians are called to serve each other, a message that resonated with Roberto Contreras, a St. Francis of Assisi parishioner and certified lay ecclesial minister who attended the retreat in Spanish.
“Sometimes we feel that the work that we are doing is not enough, but he motivates us to keep on going,” Contrera said. “Another thing that made me very happy about this retreat is that it was in person [after having so many events canceled or held online because of Covid], so we can finally be with each other, sharing and being a big family again.”
In his homily at the Mass, Bishop Solis echoed many of the themes on which Fr. José-David expounded. Concelebrating were Fr. José-David; Fr. Samuel Dinsdale, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish; and Fr. José Barrera, administrator of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Midvale. Deacon Dale Dillon assisted.
The readings of the day – Genesis 14:18-20, 1 Cor 11:23-26 and Luke 9:11b-17 – provide a background for the beauty of the Eucharist, the bishop said. “The sacrament of the holy Eucharist becomes the most sacred gift that God could ever give us. It … fills our heart with great wonder and gratitude.”
Receiving the Eucharist changes the one who eats it, he said. The sacrament, which is “the conversion of bread into Christ,” has the effect that “whenever we partake of the Eucharist, we become what we eat,” becoming children of God.
“Christ shares the love of God with us … that we might share this love of Christ with those around us,” the bishop said. “This is the heart of the Eucharist and our mission. It is the desire and mission of Jesus to make us sharers of God’s life and love.”
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