July 2021 - Pondering the gift of the Eucharist
Just as with Holy Thursday, Corpus Christi Sunday, which we celebrate June 6, provides us an opportunity to give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist to the Church and to ponder that gift. In the coming weeks and months, it is a gift we will all be pondering even more as we are able to once again freely gather for Mass.
After 14 months of limited opportunities to participate in the Eucharist, Bishop Robert Deeley, along with the bishops of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, decided that it was time to call all Catholics back to the weekly celebration of Mass, so on Fathers’ Day weekend, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass was lifted.
With so much time having passed, some may feel that they are just fine as they are, that they no longer need to attend Mass in person. But it is important to remember that someone – not something but someone – is waiting for us at Mass. That someone is Christ.
Yes, we can pray to Jesus wherever we find ourselves. Yes, we can read Jesus’s words to ourselves. Yes, Jesus hears our prayers, even when we are alone. That is all true. But there is no prayer comparable to the offering of Mass, which priest and people do together. For in this prayer, Jesus Himself is heard speaking to us. For whenever the Scriptures are read in the Church, the living Jesus is still proclaiming His Gospel. At Mass, I am not just reading Jesus’s words to myself. Jesus is speaking to me in His own words, through the instrument of His ministers: the reader, the cantor, the deacon, and the priest.
Jesus does that because He is alive. That’s what we believe. He who died is now alive at the Father’s right hand in heaven. It is not simply His memory that lives in our minds and hearts. He, in a glorified body, is alive, never to die again.
Because Jesus is alive, He is still doing now what He did then. He spoke to His disciples then. He speaks to us now. If people want to hear Jesus speaking in the 21st century, Mass is the place to hear Him.
If people want to see Jesus in the 21st century, Mass is also the place to see Him. St. Luke tells us that for 40 days after Easter, the disciples continue to see the risen Jesus in their midst. Then, that bodily presence returned to the Father’s side. That’s the mystery of the Ascension. Yet, Jesus promised to remain with the Church always. Jesus was faced with a dilemma. He knew he had to leave to be with the Father. He knew he wanted to stay with us. How does Jesus resolve this dilemma? He does both! He goes and stays. He departs and remains. We no longer see His bodily presence, but we still see His mystical body and His sacramental body. His way of being present changed, but He remains present nonetheless.
By baptism, we are joined to Christ. As St. Paul says, we become members of His body. Christ is the head of that body. We are the members. Whenever the Church is visible, Christ’s body becomes visible to the world. The Church is the most visible when it is together, gathered by the priest, to offer the Eucharist. The Body of Christ which is the Church makes Christ visible during the celebration of Mass to the extent those same members of the Church serve one another, forgive one another, and sacrifice for one another throughout the week as well.
We can also see Christ in the elements of the Eucharist, the bread and wine that Christ changes by His own words. “This is my body; this is my blood.” On the night of the Last Supper, when Jesus first spoke those words, He wasn’t joking! He meant what He said. And if Jesus decides to say, “This is my body,” then it is, not just for a time but always. That’s why He can say to us, “Do this in memory of me.” Every time you do this until the end of time, there will I be in your midst.
So, if anyone asks you why they should join you some Sunday, you can say, “You know that Jesus you’ve heard to much about? He waiting to speak to you. He is waiting to meet you in person. You will hear him speak to you. He will be there, waiting for you. Come and meet him.”
By: Msgr. Marc Caron, moderator of the curia and vicar general for the Diocese of Portland