Gn. 14:18-20; Ps. 110; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Lk. 9:11b-17
(Audio recorded live, 19 June 2022)
“They all ate and were satisfied.” Today, on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate the Real Presence of our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Today marks the beginning of three years of Eucharistic renewal and revival in our Diocese and throughout the country. A few years ago, a Pew Research study concluded that only one-third of Catholics believe that the bread and wine used for Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This means that seven out of ten Catholics think that Communion is merely symbolic. I wonder if this might be the reason why so many people have left the Church? If one does not believe in the Real Presence, where does one go to commune with the Divine? They search for Him in every other place, seeking to fill up what is lacking in their souls, only to discover there is only one source, one truth, one life, one way, which is Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
This is a good time for us to have a Eucharistic Revival. As we look to put the pandemic and lockdowns behind us, which left many congregations devastated by fear and illness, we are embarking on a time of renewal and rebuilding. It is no secret that the number of people in church has drastically shifted. This has indeed been a slow attrition, but in recent years, a massive blow. Looking back, perhaps we could have done things differently, but hindsight is 20/20. What we ought to do now is look forward. Where do we want the Church to be in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? It is up to us to forge a path forward and our guiding light must be Christ. Perhaps the reason things are so bad these days is because so many have lost sight of Christ, choosing to go their own way. But, we who remain, we know that there is only one way, one rock, one foundation, one cornerstone, which is Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds little to the already developed appreciation for the Eucharist. It quotes heavily from Early Church Fathers, providing their already deep love for what Jesus left us in the Most Holy Sacrament. For instance, second century St. Irenaeus said, “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking” (CCC 1327). In other words, the early Christians were already following the Way of Jesus and celebrating Eucharist, and living the way they did confirmed their way of thinking. It strengthened them, gave them grace, made them fearless, solid in their faith. They did this for the same reason St. Paul did so many decades earlier, who recalls the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: “Do this in remembrance of me” (CCC 1356, 1 Cor 11:24-25).
The memory of Jesus’ Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension is the core Mystery of our Faith, and the way we keep that memory is by our regular celebration of the Eucharist. The Catechism teaches, “In the communion, preceded by the Lord’s prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive ‘the bread of heaven’ and ‘the cup of salvation,’ the body and blood of Christ who offered himself ‘for the life of the world’” (Jn 6:51). And as the Catechism of Trent makes clear: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner’” (CCC 1367). The Church’s teaching on the Eucharist is clear and readily accessible. We need only to do a quick search online or a quick skim through our Catechisms. God desires that we come to Him and receive eternal life. Not a single one of us is capable of self-creating or self-resurrecting. For us to both create and rise from the dead, we need something greater than ourselves. And the Eucharist is far greater than anything we could ever ask for or imagine.
God uses the things of this world to communicate Himself to us. He uses what is ordinary to communicate the extraordinary: Ordinary bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. The sacrifice we offer today, therefore, is the one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. And our reception of Holy Communion is both an outpouring of God’s grace and love. God enables this to happen so that we, too, might partake of the promise of Christ, “Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”
The Blessed Sacrament is true food: “The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’” (Jn 6:53) And in today’s Gospel, Jesus commands his disciples: “Give them some food yourselves.” I would be remiss if I did not stress the importance of a valid priesthood to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass. Without the priesthood there can be no Eucharist. It is to that end that I, along with my brother priests, have humbly accepted this task of ensuring the people may continue to receive the bread of heaven, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. And so, may the communion we receive today strengthen our faith and conviction in the Real Presence, and may the Bread of Heaven increase in us our desire to follow him always.