Proclaiming the Real Presence

 May 25, 2008

Corpus Christi

Dt 8: 2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor 10: 16-17; John 6: 51-58 

Dc. Larry Brockman

Over 700 years ago, something strange happened near Krakow, Poland.   For 3 nights, a bright, pulsing flood of light was seen for miles shining out of a swamp near a small church.   Today, we wouldn’t think anything of it- just a floodlight.   But there were no floodlights in the 14th century, and the people were scared.   After 3 days of praying and fasting, the Bishop led a procession into the swamp. They found the source of the light. They found a monstrance with consecrated hosts in it. The monstrance had been stolen from the small church by thieves for its gold, but it was discarded when they found out it was not real gold.  It was a miracle attributed to the Eucharist.  So, the Bishop built the Church of Corpus Christi there- the feast we celebrate today. 

This is but one of a string of documented Eucharistic miracles recorded over 20 centuries.   Some of these miracles include actual physical evidence that the host or wine was turned to real flesh and real blood:  hosts that have begun to bleed; hosts that have turned into flesh;   and hosts that have been miraculously preserved in the midst of devastating fires.  Some of this evidence is on display in Italy today.  Some of you have visited these places and know that what I say is true.   But like some of the people who actually saw the miracles Jesus worked,  there is still doubt- doubt, skepticism, and cynicism about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Now, in the wake of Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in which he encouraged us to dialog with other Christians; and in this year of Evangelization, when we are encouraged to help others to embrace our faith, it is especially important for you to understand what it means to be a Catholic.  

You need that so that you can defend your faith, and spread it.   That’s what it means to evangelize.   You have heard it said that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian Faith.  The Catechism puts it very well:  “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ    And, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (#1374).  The Real Presence in the Eucharist is one of the main areas that defines what it means to be a Catholic.  It’s one of those things that makes us Catholics so different from other Christians   because they have the Bible- the Word of God; but we have the Bible AND the Eucharist, and that makes a big difference.     

How can you make that difference evident in our society?   First, you need to understand that it is a mystery; then you need to believe in that mystery; and finally you need to live like that mystery has meaning.  That’s one way you can fulfill your role as an evangelizer.

Did you know that the root meaning of the word “Sacrament” is “mystery”?   Yes, that is what the Eucharist is- a sacrament, which is by definition, a mystery.  In this modernistic era that we live in, that is a hard pill for people to swallow.   We are taught that natural processes are the only things that really can be.   Everything has an explanation- we just have to study it long enough to unravel the explanation.  And so, society tells us that miracles and mysteries can be solved by science. And yet, as scientists have found, the ultimate explanations that explain the mysteries they solve- like DNA chains in Biology or the origin of the Big Bang-   Lead to another layer of yet unsolved mysteries.  So they keep plugging along in an endless chain of discovery. But consider this: If a mystery is solved, it is no longer a mystery.  The Eucharist simply is, and always will be, a mystery.  That’s why it is a Sacrament. 

Second, you have to believe in the mystery of the Eucharist.  Believing means accepting things in your heart that you cannot explain- it’s what we call our faith.  Faith is believing in things without proof.  I can think of no better reason to believe in the real presence then the fact that Jesus told us so.  No less than 6 SIX times in just seven verses, Jesus says that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink in today’s Gospel.  How does this miracle happen, the Real Presence in the Eucharist?   It happens at consecration during Mass,   When the Priest acts in the name of Jesus Christ to do, in remembrance of what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  Jesus said “This is my body”, and “This is my blood”.  He didn’t say it was a symbol; the Eucharist is not a symbol- that is too shallow.  It is the actual incarnation of God become man, Jesus.  And it is there for all of us over all time, not just for those who knew him 2000 years ago.  It is food from heaven, a food just as real as the manna talked about in the first reading.  We can see and feel and taste it.  That’s what we need, not something symbolic of a spiritual presence; but rather, a real presence physically that brings with it spiritual gifts which we call God’s grace.  Grace is what we all need to live out our call to be like Jesus.  Instead of nourishment in a conventional earthly sense for our bodies, like the manna of the Old Testament, it is a nourishment of our whole selves- if you believe, really believe in the power of the Eucharist.  

There are many ways you can demonstrate you really believe.  One way is reverence- a reverence that broadcasts a proper attitude- little things like proper dress, respectful silence, and attention when you receive.  A second way is joyful participation- participating in the singing and procession, and participation in perpetual adoration.  It’s that participation that Paul addresses when he asks the rhetorical questions in the second reading.  And a third way is consistent testimony with conviction to all who ask you about your faith.  All of you have the opportunity to do that- to give testimony.  Instead of a smile and silence, tell them you believe and why.  Jesus tells us that all are saved who believe in him and don’t deny him.   As a Catholic, you have a special gift among Christians. You have Jesus with you each time you receive the Eucharist.  Don’t deny Him, proclaim Him as a member of the Body of Christ.  

One Response to “Proclaiming the Real Presence”

  1. Bible Timeline…

    I have always conceived of the God of the Bible as an engineer before he is a king. Unlike any other king, he is the maker of his realm, and as a perfect being, he must clearly put perfect thought into perfect design and then into perfect form. I admit…

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