Friday, May 4, 2012

The Eucharistic Presence

Blog followers, my bulletin article for my parishes this week is on the real presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.  I thought that it might be interesting for those beyond my parishes.  Enjoy!

Dearest Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
     This weekend, in two of our parishes, we celebrate that most wonderful moment in our children’s lives when they are invited to approach the Altar of God for their first reception of the Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ.  We will celebrate this in our third parish next Sunday morning.  With this in mind I’d like to spend a couple of weeks discussing the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and our worthy reception of that most august gift of grace.
     It is an amazing statistic (the last time I heard a report on this) that 7 in 10 adults identifying themselves as “Catholic” do not believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist.  Now, considering that only 24-33% of Catholics go to Church on any given Sunday (depends on where you live for exact statistics), I can certainly see where 3 of those 10 would have difficulty with understanding what the Church teaches in this regard since they are rarely if ever at Mass to hear the Good (that is – life saving) News about the Lord’s love for us as shown in this marvelous gift.  The other 3 or 4 folks could well be those who come a little bit more than occasionally, but even then it’s not out of a sense of being fully convicted regarding the Truth of God’s loving plan for salvation.  I have often wondered if a better recognition of this great gift would keep so many from straying?  In any case, there might even be some, from among those who attend regularly, who are not 100% sure about how this can be true.  It is critical for our worship “in spirit and in truth” that we understand thoroughly and accept this wonderful teaching – that is, it is critical for our salvation.
     First, we need to recognize from where this teaching comes.  A couple of weeks past this was, in fact, the gospel readings for the weekday Masses.  The bible’s most complete explanation of this is to be found in the Gospel according to St. John, the sixth chapter.  Here, Jesus makes it clear that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life in us. (Jn 6:53)  This is one of the unique times in the gospels that Jesus does not then turn to his apostles and teach further so that they would understand what He meant by what He taught.  In fact, He challenges them as to whether they will also leave his company as had many of those following Him up until that moment. (Jn 6:67)  Peter takes the lead here and says: “Lord, where would we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  But did they know what Jesus really meant by what He had taught?  Probably not.  Not, that is, until the night of the Last Supper.  Here, Jesus would take bread, bless it, break it, and give it to his disciples saying: “Take this and eat.  This is my body.” (Matt. 26:26)  “Then, after the meal, He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying: ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matt. 26:27-28)  In his letter to the Church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:23-32), St. Paul testifies that if we receive the bread and drink from the cup without perceiving the Body and Blood of Christ we eat and drink judgement upon ourselves.  Pretty strong language!  But certainly a strong indicator that this is and has been the understanding of the Church with regards to the Eucharist from the beginning.
     In the centuries and millennia since, God has made His point with regards to the truth of this awesome mystery through Eucharistic Miracles.  In fact, I have two books full of stories giving witness to God’s acting in time to fortify our understanding and belief in the Truth of our Eucharistic theology.
     I pray that as our young people approach the altar for their first time their child-like acceptance of God’s gift of Truth and Love will never be diminished.  If our trust and love of God would be as pure as theirs, it need never be!
See you at Sunday Mass!