The Eucharist — Believe it: We truly encounter Jesus’ presence Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, May. 30, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

During this Year of Faith, the Catholic Church is asking all of us to reflect on various aspects of our faith and its meaning in our daily lives.

When Pope Benedict XVI talked about the reasons for calling for a Year of Faith, he said that one of his considerations was that it would provide an opportunity “to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed and also the source from which all its power flows” (Porta Fidei).

Pope Benedict’s words are actually taken from a document of the Second Vatican Council called Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of Christian life.”

Christ is really present in the Eucharist

Our Catholic faith teaches us that Jesus Christ is really present in the Eucharist. At the Last Supper Jesus changed bread and wine into his body and blood. This is a key doctrine of our faith.

What is sad is that surveys have shown that many Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Some only believe that the bread and wine are symbols, not the real body and blood of Christ.

It seems we have a lot of education to do about the Eucharist among Catholics. It should start among our young people, especially those preparing to receive their first Holy Communion.

Just imagine. If Jesus Christ walked into the church during Mass on Sunday, what would people do? Some might be awe-struck; others might run up to touch him; some might even cheer and applaud. There would definitely be a strong response.

The fact is, Jesus Christ is present in our churches during Mass. He doesn’t appear as a human person, but he is truly there under the appearance of bread and wine. If we really believed that, we would show how we feel about encountering God himself in the Eucharist with reverence and awe.

Encountering Christ in Communion and Adoration

We each have the opportunity to receive Christ in Holy Communion and to pray before him in Eucharistic Adoration.  Attending Mass is a something I cherish. The time I spend each week at Eucharistic Adoration is also special, and I encourage more people to take advantage of Eucharistic Adoration in their parishes or in other places of prayer. For example, there is Eucharistic Adoration each weekday at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison from 9 to 11:45 a.m. with a special focus on praying for vocations. We need more regular adorers at the center.

Another opportunity will happen Sunday, June 2, on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Catholics throughout the world will be joining with Pope Francis at 10 a.m. (Central time) in an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. We have included a schedule of Adoration in our parishes in this week’s Catholic Herald. It can also be found on the Diocese of Madison website

Communal nature of the Eucharist

Besides being a personal encounter with Christ, the Eucharist also has a communal nature. In a document called Eucharist: Body of Christ, Broken for the World, the U.S. bishops point out, “In the Eucharistic Liturgy and our prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we encounter God’s presence in personal and profound ways. But the Eucharist is also social, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love): ‘A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (no. 14).’”

The bishops add, “The Eucharist, celebrated as a community, teaches us about human dignity, calls us to right relationship with God, ourselves, and others. As the Body of Christ, it sends us on mission to help transform our communities, neighborhoods, and world.”

The Eucharist truly is food for our journey, a journey which Pope Benedict in Porta Fidei calls “a journey that lasts a lifetime.” Let’s take advantage of opportunities to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist as often as we can!