If we treated the Eucharistic species of bread and wine like we would treat Jesus Himself, how much would that change our lives? Significantly, I imagine.
Much has been said about the liturgy in recent years. How will the people comprehend the new translations? How will we make the experience of the liturgy more engaging for people? How will we get people to come back to Mass? What direction should the priest face at the altar? What is the most effective preaching style? And so on.
And all of these things are important. They deal with the horizontal experience of liturgy – how does the priest built the relationship with his people through liturgy. The human, communual aspect of what we do at Mass cannot be ignored. How things appear to the people must be in line with what the Church believes – lex orandi, lex credendi. But what is more important – that we faciliate a pleasant experience, or that we recognize that Jesus Christ is Present in the house! I suspect that if Jesus walked into the Church, the liturgical programming would fall by the wayside, and we would be attentive to Him.
While the Eucharist is a sacrament, and not Jesus walking around in the sanctuary, nevertheless, the Eucharist is the True Presence of Jesus. The Eucharist appears to us as bread and wine. Jesus used bread and wine on the night before He died, that those elements might symbolically carry His Presence. Whenever the Church and the Church’s ministers celebrate the Prayer of the Eucharist, the Bread and Wine changes into Jesus’ True Presence. If you are not convinced that this was Jesus’ intention, read the Gospel of John chapter 6 (or believe that when Jesus holds a piece of bread in His hands, and says, “This is my Body”, He means it!).
This Sacrament requires faith. We must believe. It is not apparent to us. It is easier not to believe it. But something beckons deep inside of us, that calls us to believe. Jesus is Truly Present in what appears to be Bread and Wine! In truth, it is not Bread and Wine, but really Jesus Christ. This truth is being communicated through sacramental symbolism, through ritual prayer. However, it is much more than symbolism. We are drawn into a deeper truth of faith. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Jesus Himself. When we make a visit to the Church to pray in front of the Tabernacle, we are visiting Christ Himself. After we have received Communion, we have become a Temple of the Holy Spirit.
How is it that Catholics receive the True Presence, but fail to become the True Presence to their neighbors and friends? In regards to the Eucharist, St. Augustine said something to the effect, “you are what you eat.” That is certainly true with Twinkies. It is true with the Eucharist as well. Are we becoming more like Christ by receiving the Eucharist, or are we more or less the same as the average Joe down the block, who spends Sundays watching the Kung-Fu marathon on AMC?
Likewise, do our Masses feel like encounters with Jesus Christ, truly and literally? Are we drawn into heartfelt worship and prayer? Are we attentive to God speaking to us through His Word? Are we reverent in our reception of Communion? Are we reverent in God’s House, the church building? Do we reverence the other member of Christ’s Body, who is sitting next to us, behind us, in front of us in the pew?
If we really believed that Jesus was Truly Present in the Eucharist, wouldn’t that change everything? Is it changing everything in your life? If it isn’t, you have to ask yourself, why?