For The Dialog
LEWES – Father Anthony Marshall used his favorite passage from Scripture to show those attending a mission recently at St. Jude the Apostle Church that Jesus Christ is their friend.
He cited John 15:9-17, in which Jesus tells his disciples that they will always be in his love “if you keep my commandments,” referring to the 10 Commandments. But Jesus added an 11th commandment, Father Marshall said, “that you love one another like he has loved you.”
“How did he love us? He laid down his life for us.”
Jesus continues to give himself for us every time the Mass is celebrated, through the Eucharist, Father Marshall said.
Father Marshall’s appearance at St. Jude came during Lent, when many parishes in the diocese schedule missions.
Father Marshall, 34, is a member of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, which founded the Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing. The theme of his March 7-11 mission was “Devotion to the Eucharist: Building the Body of Christ.”
That theme was appropriate for St. Jude, according to Father Jim Hreha, the pastor since the parish was formed in 2002. Previously, it has been a mission of St. Edmond in adjacent Rehoboth Beach.
Father Hreha had two ideas for the parish when he became its pastor, that its theme be to build the body of Christ and that it have Eucharistic adoration.
His interest in adoration was sparked when he ministered to the St. Dismas community at the Delaware state prison when he was in residence at Holy Cross Church in Dover.
When Holy Cross began Eucharistic adoration “it was like someone hooked up a supercharger to their spirituality and their community,” Father Hreha said.
He wanted the same for St. Jude Parish. Within a few years of his becoming pastor, the parish offered adoration four hours a day, two days a week. In 2012 Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration began. All hours are covered, said Al Hanley, a parishioner, who is its primary coordinator of the adoration program. The parish has more than 200 “assigned adorers,” who cover a specific hour on a regular basis, and more than 60 substitutes.
Each month more than 5,000 “visits” are made to the perpetual adoration chapel, located across a parking lot from the church.
The recent Lenten mission prompted more than 40 people to ask about taking hours of adoration, Hanley said. The mission “clarified, deepened our understanding of Jesus in his Eucharistic presence, which is fundamental to our Catholic faith and practice.”
Father Marshall not only taught about how Eucharistic adoration can build the Body of Christ, he also included adoration each night during the mission. The mission ended with a procession carrying the Eucharist from the church to the perpetual adoration chapel.
He also taught how healing through the Eucharist helps build the Body of Christ by using St. Luke’s account of a sinful woman who washed Jesus’s feel with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with oil while Jesus was at a dinner at Simon the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus told the woman: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
In an interview, Father Marshall said he considers that dinner, as well as other dinners cited in the Gospels, to be Eucharistic in nature. They foreshadow the Last Supper, the night before Jesus’s crucifixion, at which he instituted the sacrament of Communion.
Jesus’s mercy to the sinful woman who washed his feet illustrates that “God is infinite in forgiveness,” Father Marshall told the mission. Part of that is because “God became a human being [in Jesus] just like us, except for sin. Jesus knows all of our struggles in life,” as well as our joys.
Jesus is always there, ready to welcome us back, Father Marshall said. He compared Jesus to a GPS, which maps out routes for us while traveling.
“Jesus is our GPS: God’s Precious Savior.” While God has programmed a map for us in life, being human we do not always stick to that route.
“When we sin, Jesus says, ‘Recalculating,’” Father Marshall said. “He brings us back through reconciliation.”
The sacrament of reconciliation was offered at each session of St. Jude’s Lenten mission, both before and after, drawing long lines.
Jennifer Skelton, a parishioner who attended the mission, said it helped her “to listen to what God’s been telling us and that Jesus is our friend. I haven’t thought of him as a friend before. That was the first time, really.”
Skelton, who participates in Eucharistic adoration, said Father Marshall helped her see Jesus as a friend willing to sit and listen to all her concerns and joys, and just as willing to sit in silence with her.
“Jesus is welcoming me with open arms,” she said.