Is the Church a Closet?

by | Jun 9, 2021 | Formation, Systemic change | 4 comments

Pope Francis’ homily for the Feast of the Body of Christ is loaded with powerful images. I doubt I can ever read the gospel without recalling his image of the church as a closet rather than a large room. See what you think of these teasers from his homily.

He begins with a question to explore.

What are the “places” in our own lives that God is asking to be our guest?

Three Images from the gospel

He continues

The first is that of the man carrying a pitcher of water led the disciples to the room where Jesus would institute the Eucharist.

This might seem like a superfluous detail. Yet that nameless man became the guide who would bring the disciples to the place where Jesus would institute the Eucharist. Our thirst for God brings us to the altar. Where that thirst is lacking, our celebrations become dry and lifeless.

As Church, it is not enough that the usual little group meets to celebrate the Eucharist; we need to go out into the city, to encounter people and to learn how to recognize and revive their thirst for God and their desire for the Gospel.

A second image

The second image from the Gospel is that of the Upper Room (cf. v. 15). “Here is a nameless man, the owner of a house, who lent Jesus his finest room… He gave Jesus the best he had.

But if our heart, rather than a large room, is more like a closet where we wistfully keep things from the past, or an attic where we long ago stored our dreams and enthusiasm, or a dreary chamber filled only with us, our problems and our disappointments, then it will be impossible to recognize God’s silent and unassuming presence.

The Church too must be a large room. Not a small and closed circle, but a community with arms wide open, welcoming to all.

Let us not forget that the Eucharist is meant to nourish those who are weary and hungry along the way. A Church of the pure and perfect is a room with no place for anyone. On the other hand, a Church with open doors, that gathers and celebrates around Christ, is a large room where everyone – everyone, the righteous and sinners – can enter.

A third image from the Gospel is that of Jesus breaking the bread.

(The Lord) offers himself so that we can be reborn to new life… does not demand sacrifices, but sacrifices himself… asks nothing but gives everything. In celebrating and experiencing the Eucharist, we too are called to share in this love.

For we cannot break bread on Sunday if our hearts are closed to our brothers and sisters. We cannot partake of that Bread if we do not give bread to the hungry.

Closing Prayer

Brothers and sisters, today where should we go “to prepare the Lord’s supper”?

The procession with the Blessed Sacrament … reminds us that we are called to go out and bring Jesus to others. To go out with enthusiasm, bringing Christ to those we meet in our daily lives.

May we become a Church with pitcher in hand, a Church that reawakens thirst and brings water.

May we open our hearts in love, to be the spacious and hospitable room where everyone can enter to meet the Lord.

May we break the bread of our lives in compassion and solidarity, so that through us the world may see the grandeur of God’s love.

Then the Lord will come, he will surprise us once more, he will again become food for the life of the world. And he will satisfy us always, until the day when, at the heavenly banquet, we will contemplate his face and come to know the joy that has no end.


  1. Ann Mary Dougherty, DC

    Thank you, John, for sharing this. It made me look up and read the Holy Father’s entire homily for Corpus Christi. I do so appreciate all your reflections on this FamVin site. I never miss reading them. May the Lord continue to inspire you as you make this wonderful contribution to our spiritual life. God bless!

    • John Freund, CM

      Mission accomplished if the teasers got you to read the entire document… which is not that long.

  2. Ross

    RE: “The procession with the Blessed Sacrament … reminds us that we are called to go out and bring Jesus to others. To go out with enthusiasm, bringing Christ to those we meet in our daily lives.”

    This reminder from Pope Francis sends me back to St. Vincent’s account that in part reads (SV.EN IX:192):

    “After Vespers, I took with me an upright citizen of the town, and we set out together to go there. Along the way, we met some women who had gone before us and, a little farther on, we met others who were returning home. Since it was summertime and the weather was very hot, those good ladies were sitting by the side ofthe road to rest and refresh themselves. In a word, Sisters, there were so many of them, you would have said it was a procession.”

    Those in “procession”, of course, were the first “ladies of charity” who were on the way to help a needy family and coming back from helping.

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