Monday September 16, 2019
8:42 am
Bishop Hying

The Eucharist is at the center of our faith; our sacred encounter with the Risen Christ

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on June 3, 2018

   

      As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Church invites us to enter more deeply into the Eucharistic mystery.

      In the final hours of his earthly life, facing his terrible Passion, Jesus was thinking of us! Looking deeply into the future, Jesus must have pondered how he could abide with humanity in the most profound way possible until the end of the world. What form of his continuing presence would create the most intimate possible between the Son of God and an individual person? 

      The answer is the Eucharist. 

      “Do this in memory of me” is probably the one command of Jesus that the Church has kept most faithfully, correctly understanding the Eucharist as the center of Catholic faith, our sacred liturgical encounter with the risen Christ, our participation in the Paschal Mystery, our reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood. 

      The ceaseless celebration of the Mass, beginning in house churches in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and continuing every day since, constitutes the central action of the Church, as we, members of the Body of Christ, offer praise and thanksgiving to the Father in with Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church.  This Eucharistic action gives life, grace and mercy to God’s people, binding all of us in the most intimate possible with the Lord.

      The next time you receive Holy Comm, ponder the sublime reality you are experiencing. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, whom the entire universe cannot contain, has humbled himself so profoundly as to assume the sacramental form of a tiny piece of bread and a sip from a chalice. 

      He places himself in your hands; you digest this divine presence into your body and soul. This physical and spiritual , representing the Lord’s humility and desire for intimacy with us, is a gift of love beyond our comprehension. How deeply God wants to abide with us, take up residence in our being, possessing our soul, heart, mind and will!

      Down the centuries, the Catholic Church has faithfully, courageously and eloquently clung to her conviction that Jesus Christ, in his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. Because of our belief in the Real Presence, Catholics have been accused of superstition, idolatry, magic and ignorance. 

      Many reject our Eucharistic faith as an archaic holdover from the Middle Ages, a naïve tenet that falls before our sophisticated scientific age. In honesty, all of us have probably struggled at some point to truly believe in the Real Presence. The Eucharist looks, tastes and appears to be the same bread and wine placed on the altar before the consecration. Our faith asks us to believe a mystery that our senses cannot prove or even grasp.

      Maybe we have doubts about the Eucharist because it seems too good to be true. The Lord’s unconditional love and humble intimacy in this sacrament are so astounding, so beyond anything we would feel worthy of or dream to be even possible, we may question its authenticity. 

      Have you ever tried to love someone who has never been loved? People who have never really experienced true, unconditional love in their lives or have never let anyone into their hearts, will suspect and doubt love when it is offered. They will think it to be a trick, a deception, a shiny lie that could not possibly be true. And so, they reject what has been so graciously offered.

      When we receive the Eucharist and say “Amen” to the gift, we are invited to accept the love of God into our lives, and by that fact, to see ourselves as lovable and desired by God. Is not this humble self-acceptance, that gracious surrender to a relationship with God that enters our very heart and flesh actually the core of salvation? We can only know true and lasting redemption by allowing the Lord to love us, taking in his offer of mercy and forgiveness, acknowledging our hunger, poverty, sin and neediness.          Pride wants to do life on its own, never admitting weakness, never being vulnerable, never really letting in another to the inner recesses of the heart. Humility lets itself be loved because it joyfully professes the radical need of God and other people in order for life to be full and abundant.

      Every time we celebrate and receive the Eucharist, we get to practice the humility of that sweet and saving surrender over and over again. Jesus Christ beautifully offers himself, and we gratefully receive.  Christ knocks on the door of the soul, and we happily open in welcome. God wants to possess our very being, and we simply let him. 

      Was Jesus thinking of the Eucharist when he told us that, “If anyone does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will never enter it?” (Luke 18:17) In a holy freedom of innocence and trust, children accept and receive love without asking a lot of questions, raising a hundred impossibilities or questioning the intentions of the other. 

      In the Most Holy Eucharist, Jesus invites us to such a pure and simple faith. In this amazing encounter, we digest the great secret of the resurrection, as Saint John Paul reminds us and we experience a foretaste of heaven itself. Only God could have imagined the intimacy, simplicity and power of the Real Presence. 

      God is there waiting for us. All we need to do is open our hearts and hands in receptive welcome.

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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