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Focus Is on the Eucharist
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.


Stations of the Cross During Benediction?
Why 40?
Second Forgiveness Needed?
No Holy Water in Fonts During Lent?

Q: Some people in our parish say that it is not proper to expose the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance, pray the Stations of the Cross and then have Benediction. Is that true? Where can I find the current regulations for Benediction?

A: In 1973, the Congregation for Divine Worship published a document entitled Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass. It states: “During the exposition there should be prayers, songs and readings to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord.

“To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from Scripture with a homily or brief exhortation to develop a better understanding of the eucharistic mystery. It is also desirable for the people to respond to the word of God by singing and to spend some periods of time in religious silence” (#95).

That same document recommends that part of the Liturgy of the Hours be celebrated during adoration since this is an extension of “the praise and thanksgiving offered to God in the Eucharistic celebration...” (#96).

Earlier in this document we read, “Exposition which is held exclusively for the giving of Benediction is prohibited” (#89).

You can have Stations of the Cross first and then exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. During the time for adoration, you still need silence, plus appropriate songs or prayers that focus on the Eucharist.


Why 40?

Q: Why does the number 40 recur so often in the Bible? After Noah built the ark, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.

A: Biblical writers assumed that 40 years was the length of a generation. Caleb and Joshua are presented as the only people who left Egypt and entered the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:36 for Caleb; an adult Joshua assisted Moses at Mt. Sinai—Exodus 24:13). Everyone else was born after leaving Egypt.

In that sense, 40 years represents a clean break with the past. In Psalm 95, God says, “Forty years I loathed that generation; I said: ‘This people’s heart goes astray, they do not know my ways’” (verse 10).

David reigned as king for 40 years, seven years from Hebron and 33 from Jerusalem (1 Kings 2:11).

The sense of completeness represented by 40 years was also associated with 40 days. The flood that Noah experienced with his wife, children and the animals (Genesis 7:12) represents a total break with their past.

Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18). After a single meal provided by God, Elijah walked for 40 days to resume his pr

ophetic mission (1 Kings 19:8).Although Jesus’ 40 days in the desert are not a break with a sinful past, they do prepare for his public ministry and its challenges. Jewish Christians readily linked those days to their ancestors’ 40 years in the desert, including the temptations they faced there. Jesus’ 40 days in the desert followed his baptism and prepared him to reject the tempter’s enticing suggestions about how to be a successful Messiah. Calvary is Jesus’ final answer to the tempter. Jesus’ followers would later face their own temptations as disciples and draw comfort from the story of Jesus’ temptations.

St. Luke places Jesus’ Ascension on the 40th day after his Resurrection (Acts 1:3).

If people in biblical times had the life expectancy that most people in the United States have today, the number 40 probably would not have been considered the length of a generation.

Ultimately, all time belongs radically to God; it is merely lent to us by God in greater or shorter increments so that we can live as people created in God’s image and loved by God.

Q: In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says that if his followers, while bringing their gifts to the altar, realize that another believer has something against them, those followers should present their gifts only after they have sought reconciliation.

How does this connect to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If I have sought forgiveness and received absolution, do I still need to seek forgiveness from the person against whom I have sinned? What if the other person refuses to forgive? What if I am no longer able to contact that person?

A: Jesus’ saying (part of the Gospel on Friday of the First Week of Lent) is a way of acknowledging that every sin affects other people. It’s never simply a private matter between God and the sinner.

For example, if I told lies about you, eventually repented and went to Confession and received absolution for the original lies, I should tell the truth to everyone to whom I told those lies. Although I could encourage them to pass along the retraction, whether they do so or not is beyond my control. Ideally, I should also privately request your forgiveness and seek a reconciliation.

That is not always possible because it might take me 20 years to repent of those lies and you could have died in the meantime. Even if I repented im-mediately and sought your forgiveness, those lies have a life of their own. Every sin has negative consequences beyond what the sinner wants it to have.

If I stole money from you, I could not be forgiven of that sin until I was willing to make restitution—either directly to you or, if that was not possible because of the passage of time or for some other reason, to some charitable organization

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus’ phrasing is important. He does not say, “If when you bring your gift to the altar you remember that you need to forgive someone....” He says, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you....” That casts a much wider net and places the responsibility where Jesus wants to put it.

Confession is still important, but so is the person-to-person effort to restore property or someone’s good name and to mend a relationship.

Original Sin predisposes us to minimize responsibility for our sins and to privatize them whenever we are ready to repent. It also makes it easy for us to underestimate how much each sin has a life of its own.

In the event that the other person refuses to forgive, you have to trust that God knows the sincerity of your repentance and your desire and efforts to repair the damage you have caused.

In The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Benedict Viviano, O.P., writes about Matthew 5:23-24: “first...then: This priority of ethics over cult reflects Old Testament prophetic teaching; there can be no true worship of God without justice, a doctrine called ethical monotheism for short and often considered the center of the Old Testament. Since perfect justice eludes us until the kingdom comes, we must worship imperfectly, trusting in God’s mercy.”

Q: My friends and I were recently discussing the fact that some parishes have begun to remove holy water from the fonts at the entrances into church. But some parishes do not. Is removing holy water allowed? Is it required? What is the reason for doing this?

A: This is not required; it is permitted unless the local bishop has given other instructions. Removing water from holy water fonts is a physical action reminding us of the liturgical season that the Church is celebrating. Not singing the Gloria or the Alleluia during Lent serves a similar purpose.All three customs are a fast before the feast, a time when we will use lots of water (the Blessing of Water during the Easter Vigil and the Sprinkling Rite during the Easter season) to remind us of our Baptism, we will sing the Gloria with new vigor and our Alleluias (Hebrew for “Praise Yahweh”) will express our profound belief in God’s providence, even as we face trials and difficulties.

Some parishes replace the water with sand. I have celebrated Masses at parishes where a purple cloth was tied over the holy water font during Lent. The Church allows some flexibility on liturgical matters; I think many people would agree that removing holy water from fonts during Lent falls within that flexibility.

If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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