July 3, 2009

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Eucharist is at center of our life of Christian faith

You shall receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. In the United States, this extends from the first Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday. Because the Holy Eucharist is both the source and summit of life for all in the Church, the Church teaches that every member for his or her own good must receive Communion minimally at least once a year.” The third precept of the Church is cited in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (p. 334).

Why does the Church set the minimal requirement? First of all, the Church wants us truly to treasure the gift that Jesus gave us before he died for us.

Secondly, she wants to emphasize the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of our Christian faith.

Furthermore, our Church believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist not only at Mass, but also in the tabernacles of our churches.

When we celebrate the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper which he celebrated at the beginning of his Passion becomes present among us and for us.

In that hour, at supper, Jesus obediently accepted his death as the giving of himself to God for the redemption of the world; and, in that hour, he also gave himself to his disciples in the event and ritual of a meal.

When we celebrate Mass, we live the mystery of that hour when the Passion began. Somehow celebration of the Eucharist is for both the priest and the community an obedient yes to Jesus’ Passion in our lives, too.

Jesus sat with those whom he loved and called his friends, those who were for him the beginning of the community which believed in him. When we celebrate the Mass, in the person of Jesus, we, priest and community of faith, live by that sacred meal.

The Last Supper and the gift of the Eucharist are poignant from our human perspective if we focus on the person of Jesus in this great mystery.

Jesus sat down to supper one last time with his friends when he knew he had to go to the darkest solitude of death.

Jesus accepts this death which is ours and should not have been his; and he shared a last, memorial meal with his friends, one of whom would betray him.

Even in the solitude of his death, Jesus wishes to remain one with us.

When we celebrate the Mass, we celebrate that moment when Jesus said “yes” to death for his friends. The Passion begins at the Lord’s Supper when Christ accepts his death in advance and proclaims his acceptance.

When we celebrate Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper becomes his presence among us and for us in the Church’s ritual. The Church, through the ministry of the priesthood, celebrates the remembrance of the sacrificial mystery so that what happened then enters into our place and time.

When the priest and the community celebrate Mass in the place of Jesus, what happened then acquires redemptive power now.

That Last Supper of our Lord and friend is one historical event that is not just a fleeting memory to be recalled in the minds and books of people.

As someone once remarked, it is the only event of all time which has not “evaporated into the void of the stars.” Because Jesus intended this act of love to become part of our lives in every time and place, we celebrate the mystery of his Last Supper in a ritual and concrete way.

And he asks only one thing of us: The “amen” of our living faith for what he has done for us in loving obedience to his Father.

Through the tangible food of the Eucharistic mystery, we have the Crucified and Resurrected Jesus with us on our pilgrimage through the world.

Because of the Eucharist, Jesus goes through our lives on all its paths. He meets us with our sisters and brothers in the destinies which befall us at all the crossroads of our lives.

How can we not participate in the awesome eucharistic mystery more often than once a year? It is truly important that we think long and prayerfully about the profound and decisive meaning of the Eucharist, which we also know as the Mass.

It celebrates the most wonderful act of Divine love that we could imagine.

It is not just some symbolic remembering or play acting. It is the real thing brought to us in ritual which was instituted by Christ himself. In the Real Presence of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament remains with us in our tabernacles.

The late Pope John Paul II said that the Eucharist must be preceded by prayer. And from it, prayer emerges to infuse our every charitable activity. †

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