The Sum and the Summary
May 10, 2017
If you ask our newly confirmed 8th graders, they will tell you that there are three Sacraments of initiation… Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation. Today, our 2nd graders will receive the Holy Eucharist for the first time. It is a special day for them and for us. I suppose you could say they will be 2/3 initiated, but actually, for their age, they are 100% initiated, for sure. Moreover, it is our sharing in the Eucharist that really completes our initiation and allows us to participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist. We adults should keep in mind that Jesus has told us in the Gospels that we should be like these children, not that they should be like us adults. I hope and pray they will do a better job of being adults when they grow up than the job my generation has done.
Apropos of that, I happened to read an article in a Catholic magazine last week that stated that most Catholics do not, in fact, believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. If you ask our 2nd graders making their First Communion today, they will tell you that Jesus indeed is present there.
I am not trying to drive people out of the Church here, but it really never occurred to me when I had my crisis of faith that if I did not believe in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist that I could remain a member of the Catholic Church. The Eucharist and Christ’s real presence is a fundamental and critical element of our faith. Wars have been fought and people have died in defense of this truth.
The life history of the Church and the Catechism makes it clear that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. All the other sacraments, and in fact all the Church’s ministries and apostolic works are connected to the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. The Eucharist is Christ, and that is what the Church is all about. The Eucharist is both an effective symbol of and cause of our sharing in God’s very life; a sign and cause of our unity through which the Church exists lives and grows. It is the high point in God’s work of making holy this world, uniting it to Christ; and it is the highest act of worship human beings can perform.
In fact, it is in celebrating the Eucharist that we anticipate our life in heaven by already joining with the angels and saints (all those already fully in heaven) in the common love and worship of God that occurs there in its fullness.
In short, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist, in turn, confirms our way of thinking.” CCC 1322-27.
Not that it is easy to believe in the real presence. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and all that will not lead you to this truth. Even those who were blessed to see and heard Jesus preach and perform miracles encountered great difficulty with believing. “Then many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ … As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” John 6:60, 66. So Jesus asked those twelve who were to become the foundation stones of the Church “Do you also want to leave?” Peter answered for them “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69. Peter did not say that it was easy to believe what Jesus said about his body and blood, but that knowing Jesus, His words were wholly believable.
So our faith affirms that “The whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained. We call this presence ‘real’ - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God, and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” CCC 1374.
In his Eucharistic presence, Jesus remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains with us under signs that express and communicate this great love. Saint John Paul II tells us: The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease. John Paul II, Dominicae cenae, 3.
So, to visit the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass is a proof of our gratitude, an expression of our love that fulfills our duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord.
The Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration in our Parish Center Chapel on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. It would be wonderful if you could stop by to stay for just a little while and pray. Or perhaps you are called to sign up for an hour during those time periods. Whatever you can do to honor the real presence of God-with-us will not only benefit you but will send a strong sign to those for whom belief is hard.
“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Alfred Lord Tennyson.