Christ is Present — By Fr. Rich, O.P.
The link that opens this column is a USSCB link that offers a great deal of information about the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Although it does not attempt to unravel the mystery, it does offer an historical perspective and attempts to answer a number of the questions that derive from its contemplation. Most, but not all, Catholics profess a belief in the “real presence” of Christ in the bread and wine. Some ground that belief in their prayer and study; some base their acceptance on the simple, “It’s what the Church teaches, so I believe.” Regardless of the basis, this mystery is one that helps to define us as Catholics, not simply Christians.
Catholics, in professing this belief, acknowledge the “source and summit” of our faith. When Christ uttered the words, “…this is my body; …This is my blood…” the bread at table and the wine at table became His Body and His Blood. When the priest murmurs these words in the celebration of the Eucharist, Christ’s body and Christ’s blood is present on the altar. It is not a symbol; it is not a memorial event; it is not a re-enactment.
In this gift, Christ fulfilled his pledge to His Disciples, His followers, to us, forever. He assured them on more than one occasion that He would be with them always. The Christ that is present in the bread become Body and the wine become Blood is the same Christ in the upper room, the same Christ being sacrificed on the altar of the Cross, the same Christ resurrected. This Christ who comes to us is the same Christ who ascended to His Father.
Jesus Christ is. He is as accessible to us in this sacrament as he was to those at the meal, in the upper room, to Thomas who doubted. And just as those who knew Jesus, we are challenged to listen and hear Him. I truly know that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, hears us when we pray and always, always responds. Our constant challenge is to really hear, to hear with honesty and openness to what God is offering to us.
And so we celebrate this mystery.
Over the years, as one would expect, my appreciation of this mystery, of the opportunity to take part in it has changed. Frankly, I spent very little time considering its implications and power until I entered our school of Theology and was the given the opportunity for study and contemplation. And I can tell you that I am still a very long way from exhausting its complexity, depth, and mystery; a very long way.
Consider then the Body and Blood of Christ, “the source and summit,” the source of such graces from God that we cannot even imagine. Graces lift us up, nurture us in our daily journey; graces are a bulwark against sin and temptation. All we have to do is show up, participate in the Eucharist, accept into our bodies this bread become Body and wine become Blood.
Celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Take this opportunity to consider your participation in the Eucharist, your relationship with this mystery. Ask yourself what could be done to strengthen that relationship and to deepen the acceptance of the mystery and the grace that is so freely given.