Through the Eucharist, we are ‘free to proclaim the word of God,’ Bishop Iffert preaches at SUMMIT22 Mass

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

Youth in the Diocese of Covington, age 13-22, attended SUMMIT22, a youth retreat, at Covington Catholic High School, Oct. 7–9. Following the model of World Youth Day, the weekend-long retreat engages youth in daily Mass, rosary, Eucharistic adoration and “dynamic catechesis.” Saturday, Oct. 8, Bishop John Iffert joined attendees of the weekend retreat to celebrate Mass. 

In his homily, Bishop Iffert draws parallels between the story of the lepers in Luke’s Gospel with the Eucharist. “Jesus sends them (the lepers) to the priest to be healed. He says to the priests, to pronounce them clean,” he said, “The priest examines the one who has been healed of leprosy. And if he finds no blotch on them, he might separate them out for seven days, and then examine them again. And if he still finds no blotch on them, then there’s a sacrifice that is prescribed… the person who has been declared healed of leprosy is to go procure two birds, perfect birds, without any blotch or scar.” Bishop Iffert then goes on to describe the process of this sacrifice as written in Leviticus 14, including the two “perfect birds” and a “pot of living water,” water from a flowing stream. 

“He takes one of the birds and he kills the bird, and he drains the blood from the bird into that pot of water that has been taken from a living source. And then, now with this pot of blood from the sacrifice bird, he takes the other bird, the one that is still live. He binds it to Cedar wood with scarlet thread. And then, the priest takes the living bird, the one who has been offered for sacrifice but is still alive… He takes the living bird and he dips that living bird into the blood of the bird that has been sacrificed, into that clay pot of blood and living water,” he said. After sprinkling the blood and living water with the bird seven times over the leper that has been declared clean, the living bird is then set free to “fly across the countryside.” 

Bishop Iffert goes on to compare the parallels of the sacrificial rites of the two birds to Jesus in the crucifixion, “What flows from Jesus’ side? When Jesus is pierced — blood, and living water,” he said, referencing the moment of the crucifixion when a Roman soldier pierces Jesus’s side with a lance. “We are washed in that. And, then like that bird, set free for a purpose, to proclaim the mercy and the glory of God.” 

Bishop Iffert then challenged those gathered to be “amazed at the hugeness of mercy” offered in the Eucharist, “and respond with hearts that respond well to graciousness. Hearts that are thankful. Can we do that? Are we determined?” He concludes by once again referencing and comparing us, the Church, to the “bird that was set free,” to proclaim the word of God. 

The annual Eucharistic retreat for youth and young adults is organized and sponsored by the diocesan Office of Catechesis and Evangelization and the Covington Retreat Committee. This year the retreat was led by the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from Cleveland, Ohio.

Image: Bishop John Iffert addresses attendees of SUMMIT22 during his homily at the retreat’s Saturday Mass service, October 8.