This is the second part of a series of installments of the Pastoral Letter written by Bishop John Noonan, The Eucharist: God Among Us. Upcoming: Being a Eucharist with Jesus.
Encounter with Jesus
Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of Me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My Blood, which will be shed for you (Lk 22:19,20).
Who is the Eucharist? The Eucharist is Jesus! Just as John said to Peter after the Resurrection, “It is the Lord! (Jn 21:7) Jesus speaks to the apostles, His disciples, and us with great love and knows that we need to be nourished to follow Him. He knows the difficulties we will face. With the Eucharist, He gives Himself to us so that we are able to receive Him and continue our journey with Him each day. St. Justin Martyr wrote, “We have been taught, the food which has been made the Eucharist by the prayer of his (the priest’s) word, and which nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation, is both the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (St. Justin Martyr (c.155 AD), First Apology, 66).
How can we refuse Jesus? What or who keeps us from receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, our Lord and Savior? The Eucharist is our participation in the Divine Life through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC1325). This is a great mystery of our faith—we can only know it from Christ’s teaching given us in the Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church.
St. Francis of Assisi said, “In this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He says, “Behold, I am with you until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
If we love Jesus, then wouldn’t we want to do what He asks? Jesus ever calls us to a new commandment. He said, “love one another as I have loved you” (cf: Jn 13:34).
We are a part of God’s story. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, encourages us to “write stories of redemption on the pages of our time.” As we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we continue salvation history for Jesus Christ is yesterday, today and forever. “Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 1).
Just as our physical bodies are nourished by the food harvested from the earth for strength and energy, so too does the Bread from Heaven nourish us to bring forth heaven upon the earth. In our spiritual reality, food plays a primary role in the story of salvation, from the forbidden fruit in the garden which brings forth sin and death to the food of Christ’s body on the Cross which brings forth everlasting life.
St. Paul tells us, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is My Body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My Blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me”” (1 Cor 11:23-25).
By Bishop John Noonan, December 15, 2022