Today is one of my favorite feasts in the Church's liturgical calendar, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast was established in the 13th century to affirm our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, because that belief was under attack. The Liturgy for the feast was composed by the great Dominican theologian, Thomas Aquinas.
Now in the early 21st century we still find a need to reaffirm this belief that Christ is present, body & soul, humanity and divinity, in this great Sacrament. I have for a long time however thought the we must do more than merely affirm our faith in this belief. We need to ask not only, "Is the Lord truly present to us?", but also, "What's He doing? How does it involve me, us?"
Bishop Robert Lynch, bishop of the St. Petersburg,FL diocese where I reside, has been conducting a wonderful program of Eucharistic awareness over the past few years, that nicely answers that question. He is gathering, nourishing and sending us,according to that program.
I think that many Catholics believe in the Eucharist, but keep themselves outside of the mystery, even though since Vatican II they have been participating more in the prayers of the Mass. I think that many people understand that the Lord is truly present and they receive Him with devotion, and that's it. Now that alone is wonderful, but there is so much more to it.
He gathers us, draws us each Sunday out of our daily lives, and invites us to bring the bread and wine of our own joys and sorrows to the celebration at His table.
He nourishes us--with His Word first of all, and then by not only feeding us with His Body and Blood, but drawing us anew into the mystery of His death and Resurrection, so that the bread of our daily lives is united to Him and we find healing and renewal. In nourishing us in this way He also unites to to Him and to one another so that in the words of Eucharistic Prayer III "we become one body, one Spirit, in Christ. Body of Christ then is the host, the consecrated Bread, but it is also us, the Church, united with Him.
To complete the process we are sent, to "Go in Peace" to bring to the world what the Lord has given us. The Eucharist then is not just a static ritual, as many critics say, but an ongoing drama in which God's love, given to us in Christ, is over and over again poured out in us so that we might pour it out on everyone we meet.
What a wonderful gift. Let's cherish it and renew our dedication to living out this gift in our lives.
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