“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
What comforting words Jesus offers us as he assures us that He will be with us always. What does this mean for us today when it has been so many years since His Ascension into Heaven?
Jesus is with us in the gift of the Eucharist. Each time we participate in the celebration of Mass, God offers us spiritual nourishment that we might partake in the Real Presence. The Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:51-55). The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist.
Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment because he loves us. God’s whole plan for our salvation is directed to our participation in the life of the Trinity, the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our sharing in this life begins with our Baptism, when by the power of the Holy Spirit we are joined to Christ. It is nourished and deepened through our participation in the Eucharist. As we partake in the Eucharist, so we are also called to bring forth the Real Presence to others. God did not leave us; but He also gave us to each other as His body to share in His priesthood, His kingship, and His prophecy. God offers us joy and hope as we live through, with and in Him.
Our participation in the celebration of the Eucharist should increase our love for one another and remind us of our responsibilities toward one another. As members of the Mystical Body, we have a duty to represent Christ and to bring Christ to the world. We have a responsibility to share the Good News not only by our words but also by how we live our lives. We also have a responsibility to work against all the forces in our world that oppose the Gospel, including all forms of injustice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: “The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren” (no. 1397).
This bread, come down from heaven, is given to us so that we might be leaven upon this earth and grow the Kingdom of God. A few weeks ago, on the Feast of St. Isidore, I blessed the ‘mission market’ of Catholic Charities of Central Florida. It was fitting to choose this day for the dedication. St. Isidore, the patron of farmers, fieldworkers and ranchers, was a laborer. The labor offered by those who participated in the creation of this beautiful choice pantry market has become leaven to their neighbors and to each other. How fitting, too, to honor these neighbors with a market in which they have selection of fruits, vegetables, and other staples; are able to address medical needs and learn about healthy choices; and given respect for the recipes of their own cultures. The dignity offered each person coming to the market is the fruit of the Eucharist.
Pope Francis reminds us, “From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the center and pattern of the life of the Church: but we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous – who have ‘broken’ themselves, their own life, in order to ‘give something to eat’ to their brothers and sisters. . . how many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated; where do they find the strength to do this?” he asked. “It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: ‘Do this in remembrance of me’.”
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, that we may know the hope that belongs to His call.
Bishop John Noonan
Diocese of Orlando