Do we live our belief that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, present in our churches each day? The feast of Corpus Christi gives us an opportunity to reflect anew on the real and living presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
It was a school morning and I had lost my temper too many times in the rush to get out the door by 8.30. By the time we were walking up to the school gate the children were subdued and I was flustered and upset.
We made it right on the bell but it just hadn’t been worth getting there on time. I was completely deflated. I wanted to start our days peacefully, not like this, feeling like the day was in ruins before it had hardly got started!
A small band of weekday morning Mass-goers was exiting the church, near the school gate. I watched them, suddenly realising that as they had just received the Eucharist, Jesus was literally passing by me.
They were so close to God. For a moment I felt an impulse to ask one of them for a blessing.
In the Eucharist Jesus is present in body, soul and divinity under the form of bread and wine. The Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the life and the mission of the Church.
Jesus himself said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.” (John 6:56) And in the Eucharist he keeps his promise to be with us until the end of time. (Matthew 28:20)
Do we live our belief that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, present in our churches each day? Do we come to Mass with a feeling of anticipation at meeting him again and offering him to God the Father as a perfect sacrifice of thanks and praise?
A Catholic friend tells me that she believes Jesus is in the Eucharist, but God’s glory is in the sky and sea too, and why shouldn’t she skip Mass for the beach some summer Sundays?
I think she misses the point. Think about it; wherever else he is, the bridegroom of our deepest heart, the one who loves us into life each day, is in the liturgy of the Eucharist specifically for us, and we don’t go and meet him there?
But I need to tell myself this, too. For even when I am there at Mass each Sunday, and kneel before the tabernacle during the week, my mind and heart are not always in it, like the Pharisee whose cup looks clean from the outside but is really unfit to drink from.
How do we increase our sensitivity to Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist? Can we make time for reading of the scriptures, commentaries and theology? Attend Eucharistic adoration or a Corpus Christi procession? Visit the Blessed Sacrament during the day when our churches are quiet and largely empty?
The lovely thing about Catholic churches and chapels is that little flickering light which tells us that Jesus is there in the tabernacle, waiting for us to come and speak our hearts, or just say hello.
Not long after that farcical morning I decided to try to visit the Blessed Sacrament each day, just leaving home a little earlier in the afternoons for the school pick-up. At first I felt a bit self-conscious going into the church instead of heading over to where most of the early-arriving parents stand and chat.
However, I noticed one or two other school parents doing the same thing as me. And gradually, over weeks and months, the number of parents popping into the church in the afternoon is increasing. Why is that? Perhaps our simple witness to God’s presence in the church is prompting others to remember and seek him out there, as those Mass-goers’ unspoken witness prompted me.
How else to be present to this mystery of the Eucharist? Perhaps by plumbing the depths of our own gratitude for all the good things we have in our lives. How terrible would it feel to be continually in a person’s debt, getting deeper and deeper every day, with no way to repay or even to thank them?
We are so indebted to God, and so grateful for the Father’s blessings, and so utterly unable to give anything to God of value for he created everything! And anything we could give ends up breaking, corroding or disintegrating anyway. We ourselves are so capricious, we might give ourselves to God one day and take ourselves back the next.
But in the Eucharist we have the perfect offering of thanks – Jesus, the unblemished sacrifice – the only present we have to give to God, is one he gives to us, it is the fruit of his life, death and resurrection.
That is why the word ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek word ‘Eucharisteo’, which means ‘give thanks’. We give to him ordinary bread and wine; he gives to us body and soul, when we receive his body and blood which gives us eternal life.
The Eucharist is also unifying; uniting us with God and with each other. God unifies us from the ground up. Our very matter, the cells that make up the bodies of every person born from the beginning until the end of time are all made up of the same stuff which is continually being recycled throughout the universe. Since Jesus’ resurrection we are now also being made a creation of a new order, being nourished with his own body, soul and divinity.
Nourished by Jesus’ Eucharistic presence, we leave Mass and go back to our homes, workplaces, and places of gathering as the living Body of Christ, to do his work in the world today. To make his Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.
“This should once more sink into our hearts: God is near. God knows us. God is waiting for us in Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us not leave him waiting in vain! Let us not, through distraction and lethargy, pass by the greatest and most important thing life offers us….And a second thing: let us never forget that Sunday is the Lord’s day…the Sunday fellowship with the Lord is not a burden, but a grace, a gift, which lights up the whole week, and we would be cheating ourselves if we withdrew from it.” From God is Near Us, The Eucharist, the heart of life by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
Over to you! What has your experience of the Eucharist been? Have you ever been to adoration? How to you teach your kids about this essential teaching? Tell us in the comments below.
- The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, www.vatican.va
As featured in the June 2011 edition of CathFamily E-Magazine. For more articles, activities and prayers check out: