In my last blog, I discussed some Biblical and early Church supports for the belief that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. Many over time have held that the Eucharist points to Christ (as a symbol), even that it connects us to Christ. However, they say that the Eucharist is not Christ. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ. Whichever viewpoint we believe certainly makes a difference in how we view the meaning of the Catholic Mass. But I would also suggest that it makes a difference for how we view a vocation to the Priesthood. If the Eucharist is just a symbol (it is undoubtedly symbolic, but it is more, it is really Christ Truly Present), then it will affect how we discern our vocation.
The True Presence of the Eucharist changes the way that we view the Priest’s role at Mass. If the Eucharist is just a symbolic action, then the Priest is not really offering Jesus Christ. He is, rather, offering something purely natural to God, simple bread and wine. The offering of the Mass would not be about inviting God into physical life (in the Priest’s life, in the Eucharist, in the lives of the people who receive the Eucharist), but rather about us offering a natural action to remember Jesus. Jesus’ Presence would be a spiritual presence, not a real physical presence. This may seem like a useless Theological question, but it is not. For why would we need a consecrated, ordained priest to offer an action that is a natural one? Why would the Priest need to receive a special Sacrament (Holy Orders) himself to be able to offer a merely natural thing? We see that the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a key part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders itself.
The True Presence of the Eucharist changes the way that we pray. It is such a comfort to so many to be able to pray at Eucharistic Adoration. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly Present in the Eucharistic host even after the conclusion of the Mass. And so, we can go into any Church, at any time, and believe that we are in the Presence of Jesus Christ. It is such a support when discerning a vocation to know that you can be in the Presence of God while praying. You can literally be in the same room with God! But if the Eucharist is just a symbol, then it is obviously of no use to pray in its Presence. Jesus is already spiritually Present everywhere. But isn’t it a special comfort to know that Jesus is so close to us in the Eucharist? This is a matter of devotion, I know, but prayer in the Church with the Eucharist has been a very important part of many vocations. I know it has been for me.
The True Presence of Jesus changes the way that we view ourselves. If we realize that we can receive the real Body of Christ into our lives, then we realize that we become the Body of Christ. As we eat the Real Jesus, then we become more than just ourselves. We can become very Christ-like. This truth can help us to avoid sin and temptation, but also to reach towards a noble calling. If we can become like Christ, then it is not a stretch to believe that we can become act in the person of Christ. This is whether we are in the streets offering acts of charity, or offering the Eucharist at the altar.
We are set apart for a special purpose. The Eucharist teaches us that. We are all chosen and sent to be disciples of the Lord. God is not only directing us from afar, but from a place right beside us, even in us. What a wonderful truth! What might God be calling you to do? May we be unafraid to support each other, as we listen for God’s guidance in our hearts. May we never tire of searching for the answer to that question.