Nothing in life compares with personal experiences of Christ. He is our Lord and Saviour.  Believers have suffered persecution, torture and death rather than risk losing these experiences. The gospels give numerous examples of people experiencing his power as healing, freeing from crippling influences in their lives and forgiving; restoring, conquering evil and exorcising personal demons.
Thanks for the first Mass in our Diocese
During his Last Supper with his Apostles, Jesus gave the Eucharist as the greatest means for future believers to experience him. Today, we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the beginning of Sunday Masses in our Diocese.
As we thank God for when the Eucharist began being celebrated across the South West, let us ask ourselves: ‘Am I experiencing the Risen Christ as he wishes through the Eucharist?’
We need to share with him our lives
For experiences Christ wishes us to have of his power through the Eucharist, we need to share with him our lives. Important moments for doing so are the four ‘sacred silences’.
In these moments, we speak in our hearts with our Risen Lord. If these moments are rushed, we fail to share our lives with Jesus properly – and not experience him as he wishes through the Eucharistic celebration.
First silence: Confessing to the Lord sincerely our personal sins
Jesus taught during the Last Supper that he reveals himself to those who show their love by keeping his commandments.  He taught too that, for our prayers to be heard, we need to live as he taught. 
Yet, none of us is the perfect Christian. We all sin. We need to seek forgiveness for our prayers to be heard.
The first sacred silence in the Mass follows the priest calling us to acknowledge our sins. We pause to tell Jesus how we have failed to live as he taught.
To the extent that we fail to take acknowledging our sins seriously, we close ourselves to the experiences the Risen Jesus wishes for us in the rest of the Mass. Each of us needs to ask:
‘How sincerely do I confess to Jesus my failures to live as he taught in each Mass?’
The Penitential Act does not offer all that Jesus offers through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. And this Sacrament is still needed by anyone who has committed mortal sin.
Second silence: sharing needs with the Lord
Jesus promised that God will always answer prayers for needs when and how God knows will be for our good.  God responds to prayers for needs, though not always in ways we seek.
The second sacred silence in the Eucharist follows the celebrant’s invitation: ‘Let us pray’. Here we share with our Risen Lord the needs we wish to pray for – those of others and our own. Then Jesus, the Son of God, makes these prayers his own.
Needs may include guidance and strength; healing and consolation. Nuptial Masses pray for the ever-deepening love between the newly married. Funeral Masses pray for the eternal rest of the deceased. The question for each of us needs to be:
‘How sincerely do I share with the Lord all I need to pray for in the Eucharist?’
Third silence: after the homily
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus enlightens our lives. During the Last Supper, he promised that the Holy Spirit will lead us ‘to the complete truth,’  based on what Jesus himself taught.  This includes deeper insights into God and how Jesus’ teachings relate to our daily lives.
We celebrate these promises in Liturgies of the Word when the Risen Jesus himself speaks through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all who sincerely listen.
The purpose of the homily in these liturgies is to help us during the third silence to reflect with Jesus on how his teaching relates to daily life. Offering our daily lives is essential for experiences of Christ through the Eucharist.
By reflecting in our hearts, we open ourselves to the Lord’s guidance through the Holy Spirit and answers too to our life questions.
Fourth silence: Communing with the Risen Lord
‘Communion’ is the union of two hearts – the heart of the Risen Jesus and the heart of the believer. Such a union grows gradually as life goes on.
The fourth sacred silence occurs after believers have received the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. This is the moment to communicate what is in our hearts to the heart of Jesus.
We express thanks to the Lord for his presence. We share our deepest hopes, fears, concerns, temptations, questions and struggles. We share what we may never have shared with anyone else.
During the distribution of Holy Communion, congregational singing is ideal. However, it is essential that there be a period of sacred silence if an optional post-communion hymn is sung.
Sharing different aspects of our lives with our Risen Lord during the sacred silences of the Eucharist is essential for the experiences he wishes for us. Without this step, the Mass is likely to seem ‘irrelevant’ to daily life.
May we priests remind people periodically of the purpose of the four sacred silences in every Mass. May we never rush these moments, depriving our congregations the personal encounters Christ intends.
And may each of us prepare well before each Mass, reflecting on where we need forgiveness; needs we are going to pray for; where we need Christ’s enlightenment for our lives; and the heart secrets we will share with the Lord.
As we give thanks to God for these anniversaries of Eucharistic celebrations in our Diocese, let us review our efforts to share our lives with the Lord.
God bless you all
Bishop Gerard Holohan
4 November 2018
 See Philippians 3:10
 John 14:21
 John 15:7
 Matthew 7:7-11
 John 16:13
 John 14: 26; 16:13