Monthly Reflections on the Eucharist

Each month, learn about the Eucharist in bite-sized reflections, based on the the outstanding document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Mystery of Eucharist in the Life of the Church.

Eucharistic Reflection | June 2022

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

audio reflection

  1. On March 27, 2020, at an early point in the global pandemic, Pope Francis walked alone in the rain across an empty St. Peter’s Square to offer prayer for the world in a time of crisis. “Faith,” he said, “begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars.”[1]  Recalling when Jesus was asleep in the boat as a tempest was raging (Mk 4:35-41), the Holy Father said, “The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith.”[2]  On that day, Pope Francis presided over the rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction in order to focus our attention on the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The Pope was reminding us that even in a time of turbulence and crisis, Jesus is present among us, as present as he was long ago in the boat on the Sea of Galilee.  
  2. In similar fashion, Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us of this ongoing presence when he repeated to us the words of Christ: I am with you always, to the end of the age (Mt 28:20). He proclaimed: “This promise of Christ never ceases to resound in the Church as the fertile secret of her life and the wellspring of her hope. As the day of Resurrection, Sunday is not only the remembrance of a past event: it is a celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his own people.”[3] 
  3. We call on these inspiring words of the saintly Pope John Paul II as we offer these reflections on the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. We do so mindful of how the pandemic has forced us to stay physically distant from one another and, for a time, to view the celebration of the Mass on a television or computer screen. Many of the faithful appear to have had their faith and their desire for the Eucharist strengthened by such a long separation. At the same time, as pastors we sense that others, having lived without Mass for so long, may have become discouraged or accustomed to life without the Eucharist. In many ways the pandemic is still with us. 
  4. As Christians we know that we need Christ to be present in our lives. He is our very sustenance as he reminded us: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you (Jn 6:53). 
  5. The Lord accompanies us in many ways, but none as profound as when we encounter him in the Eucharist. On our journey toward eternal life, Christ nourishes us with his very self. Once, when told by someone that she no longer saw the point of going to daily Mass, the Servant of God Dorothy Day reflected: “We go eat of this fruit of the tree of life because Jesus told us to. . . . He took upon himself our humanity that we might share in his divinity. We are nourished by his flesh that we may grow to be other Christs. I believe this literally, just as I believe the child is nourished by the milk from his mother’s breast.”[4] 
  6. Yet, we also know that he is present to us in a way that binds us together as one body, which we proclaim by our “Amen” in responding to the invitation: The Body of Christ. Again, we call on the words of the beloved Polish pope: “For this presence to be properly proclaimed and lived, it is not enough that the disciples of Christ pray individually and commemorate the death and Resurrection of Christ inwardly, in the secrecy of their hearts. Those who have received the grace of baptism are not saved as individuals alone, but as members of the Mystical Body, having become part of the People of God.”[5]  

Footnotes: 

[1] Pope Francis, Extraordinary Moment of Prayer, March 27, 2020 (https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/urbi/documents/papa-francesco_20200327_urbi-et-orbi-epidemia.html).  

[2] Pope Francis, Extraordinary Moment of Prayer, March 27, 2020.  

[3] Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini, no. 31.  

[4] The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, ed. Robert Ellsberg (New York: Image, 2011) p. 483; see Roman Missal, Collect for the Nativity of the Lord, Mass during the Day: “O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” 

[5] Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini, no. 31.  

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Eucharistic Reflection | July 2022

The Gift

8. At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper celebrated on Holy Thursday, the priest prays these words:  

For he is the true and eternal Priest,  
who instituted the pattern of an everlasting sacrifice 
and was the first to offer himself as the saving Victim,  
commanding us to make this offering as his memorial.  

As we eat his flesh that was sacrificed for us,  
we are made strong,  
and, as we drink his Blood that was poured out for us,  
we are washed clean.  

The words of the liturgy on the night the Church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist speak to us of the Mass as the re-presentation of Christ’s unique sacrifice on the Cross, the reception of Christ truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the marvelous effects of communion in those who receive this gift.[6]  

9. The mission of the Lord’s entire life on earth was to glorify the Father by bringing us salvation. In the Nicene Creed recited at Mass, we profess “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” The salvation offered in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is nothing less than sharing in the very life of God, in the communion of love among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is no greater gift that God could possibly give us. In Christ, we are sharers in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4). The Church Fathers referred to this participation in the divine life as “divinization.” The eternal Son of God made this possible by becoming man and uniting humanity to his divine Person. St. Augustine explained, “the maker of man was made man, so that man might be a receiver of God.”[7]  In fact, Pope Francis reminds us that “in the bread of the Eucharist, creation is projected towards divinization, towards the holy wedding feast, towards unification with the Creator himself.”[8]  

Footnotes 

[6] See Roman Missal, Prayer over the Offerings for Holy Thursday/Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Grant us, O Lord, we pray, that we may participate worthily in these mysteries, for whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated the work of our redemption is accomplished. Through Christ our Lord.”  

[7] St. Augustine, Sermon 23B.1, in Newly Discovered Sermons, trans. Edmund Hill, Works of Saint Augustine, pt. III (Homilies), vol. 11 (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1997), 37.  

[8] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 236, citing Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on the Solemnity of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ (June 15, 2006). 

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