Bow Down Before The Lamb

4th Sunday of Easter (April 21, 2013)

Acts 13:14, 43-52

Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5

Rev 7:9 14B-17

John 10:27-30

Last summer I went on a Catholic youth retreat called Catholic Heart Work Camp in South Carolina. It was a memorable experience because I was able to deacon at daily Mass all week just three weeks after being ordained. Needless to say, I was a very excited rookie deacon.

Daily Mass at Catholic Heart Work Camp. Deacon Kevin is on the far right with Fr. Watson to his immediate left.

Daily Mass at Catholic Heart Work Camp. Deacon Kevin is on the far right with Fr. Watson to his immediate left.

During this camp, they have a beautiful Eucharistic adoration night for everyone present. The day we had it, we already went to Mass in the morning but since there was no tabernacle, they couldn’t preserve the host from the morning Mass to use it for evening adoration. Therefore they asked Fr. Richard Watson from Lexington, Deacon Kevin Black (who was one of my classmates) and myself to celebrate an evening Mass by ourselves while the rest of the kids and adults listened to a motivational talk by another priest. We could then use a host from that Mass for adoration. So we went into the school’s gym hallway and celebrated a nice, intimate Mass, just the three of us. Fr. Watson jokingly said, “let’s just pretend we are at one of the side chapels at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome!” as we realized we were next to the bathroom and water fountains in the gym hallway.

When Mass was finished, a consecrated host was placed in the monstrance and we quietly processed Jesus into the auditorium while the priest was still giving his talk.  The students couldn’t see us since a big curtain was behind the stage blocking their view. I noticed that the staff had a small table set up with three chairs for us to sit on behind the main stage. My fellow brother deacon was carrying the monstrance and set it on the table. Naturally, I just assumed he would then sit down in one of the chairs the staff so generously provided for us instead of kneeling on the gym floor. Nope, he decided to go “hardcore Catholic” and kneel on the hard, wooden floor without any padding whatsoever in 90-degree South Carolina heat without the luxury of air-conditioning while wearing our church albs. “No problem,” I thought. “5-10 minutes tops and we should be done kneeling. I can handle this!”  15 minutes later, still on my knees, I was getting a little irritated that the priest was showing no signs of wrapping up his talk or starting adoration. irritated faceMeanwhile, Deacon Kevin hadn’t budged from his knees and I didn’t want to look like a wimp by sitting in a chair. So, out of pride and with sweat dripping from my face, I thought to myself, “If he’s not moving, I’m not moving!” Luckily the Catholic Heart Work Camp red handkerchief I bought as a souvenir was wrapped around my wrist. So I untied it and used it to wipe the sweat off my face. By this time my knees were completely numb. I thought if I shifted my weight, maybe it would help my knees. NOPE. That only made things worse. Now some of the feeling returned thanks to me shifting and allowing blood flow to return to my knees. The pain went from numb to stabbing. I was in pain, dripping with sweat and saying unpleasant things in my head as I grumpily kneeled on that gym floor.

It was then that it happened. The priest said something to the kids in his talk that smacked me upside the head. He said, “In a little while we are going to have Eucharistic adoration. Right now, behind the stage, our two deacons are on their knees in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament keeping watch over our Lord.” I felt like a heel. Rather than allow myself to surrender over to the prayerful moment, I was too worried about how hot and uncomfortable I felt on my knees.  I allowed my selfishness to blind me to the fact that I was in the presence of our Lord. It was in that moment that my handkerchief went from wiping away sweat on my face to wiping away tears from my eyes. I started imagining myself as one of Jesus’ disciples kneeling at the cross as He suffered a death far more painful than anything I could ever feel kneeling on that hard gym floor. Time no longer mattered to me. To this day, I have no idea how much longer I spent on my knees that night. But I do remember how powerful it was to kneel before our Lord in a state of complete surrender and thank Him for sacrificing Himself for me.

Adoration_PhotoEventually, everyone else processed to the gym floor and we all kneeled in silent adoration before Christ as they illuminated the golden monstrance with spotlights. The only sound heard was the quiet tears from the high school students as they allowed themselves to fully embrace such a powerful experience.

This is the story that came to my mind as I read today’s passage from Revelations, “For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.” That is what Eucharistic Adoration is all about. Worshiping God day or night before His throne. Now picture a golden monstrance as I read the second part of the passage. “For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” How beautiful is that??? During adoration, the center of the monstrance contains the Lamb of God in the appearance of bread. This is why Eucharistic adoration has the potential to change people’s lives. It allows us to humbly lower ourselves and admit that there is more to life than just us. It allows us to refocus and refuel our love for God and put Him back on His rightful throne. And if we surrender ourselves over to Him in EVERYTHING, He will wipe away our tears and lead us to that life-giving water.

After Mass today, everyone will have an opportunity to sign up and commit to spending one hour per week in Eucharistic Adoration that will be starting here at St. Andrew’s next month. I invite and challenge every single one of you to sign up. Don’t make excuses…don’t put it off…surrender yourself over to the experience of bowing down before the Lamb of God.

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Catholic Heart Work Camp 2012

I had to sit on a crowded bus filled with teenagers all night long, sleep on an air mattress in a room with smelly teenage boys, eat school cafeteria-style food and work in the hot South Carolina sun for an entire week. However if I had a chance to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat! I am referring to Catholic Heart Work Camp 2012. I had the joy of taking 13 of the high school students and 3 adults to Hardeeville, South Carolina for a faith-filled and work-filled week. This was my second year going to CHWC and I pray it won’t be my last! As the youth leader, I was proud of every one of the students that represented St. Andrew’s at CHWC. Not one of them complained or slacked on their job sites. The biggest fear of being in charge is having to deal with disciplinary problems and I was thankful to have such a great group of young men and young ladies representing our parish.

The best part of the week from my perspective was watching these young people come out of their shells and get excited to be Catholic as the week went on. When we first arrived, it took awhile to get settled in to our rooms and unpack. Then we had the joy of trying to find out where everything was located (bathrooms, showers with ice cold water, cafeteria and snacks, etc). The first night is every teenager’s favorite part (sarcasm intended)…ICEBREAKERS! All +300 kids were broken up into groups of 6-8 along with 1-2 adults. There were roughly 48 different groups and 1-3 groups per work site. Most of the sites involved painting or cleaning residential houses. We would spend the next 4 days working from the morning until the late afternoon at these sites.

The thing that really made the week special was that every morning we opened with Mass and then ended the day with a program that engaged the teenagers. It really energized you in spite of working in the hot sun. Even the adults leave CHWC with a renewed Catholic spirit. The two most powerful nights were when we had Eucharistic Adoration one night and then Four Corners the next. Adoration was in the gym and all 350 in attendance kneeled in silent prayer around the Eucharist. Hearing the emotion coming from many of the kids made me realize they understood what a special gift we Catholics have in the Eucharist. Four Corners was equally powerful. I had the opportunity to sit down and listen to teenagers pour out their heart to me about their fears and problems and then we just sat there and prayed together for God’s help. Powerful and emotional are the two words that come to mind when I reflect back on those events.

I believe every Catholic youth should participate in something like CHWC. It gets them excited about their faith, makes them appreciate what they have and encourages them to go out and spread the Gospel to others. If all the Catholic teenagers are like the ones I met at CHWC, our Church has a bright future!