January 2022 | A New Year's resolution: Re-educating ourselves on the Eucharist
In the days following Thanksgiving this year, I was with a group of friends who are my age (mid-50s). Most of them have children who recently graduated from or are still in either high school or college. Our conversation turned to the Eucharist. I was shocked that even though they are Catholic, a few of my friends and many of their children believe that the bread and wine we receive at Mass are symbols of Christ’s presence. Immediately I went into my teaching mode and emphasized that the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus. With the words of consecration, under the appearance of bread and wine, the whole of Christ is truly present: body, blood, soul and divinity. Now, this was not a theological debate, and I actually did not receive much pushback from my exhortation. However, one of the college students simply responded to me without any contention or guile, “Hmmm. Is that what we really believe? I did not know that.”
This encounter reflects the data and studies that show many Catholics do not believe in or fully understand the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As we begin 2022, many of us have made a New Year’s resolution. I would like to invite you to join me in a New Year’s resolution to re-educate ourselves about the Eucharist. For no matter how educated or faithful we are, we are constantly being invited by our Lord to go deeper in our faith and understanding of the Eucharist.
The document “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” was developed by the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It was approved by the full body of the USCCB at its November 2021 general meeting. The document highlights the importance, centrality, and gifts of the Eucharist. If you have not had the chance to read the document, I invite you to learn more about it by going to the following link on the USCCB website: www.usccb.org/resources/mystery- eucharist-life-church. You will notice that you can not only read the document, but also click on a comprehensive online course to learn more about it.
We should continuously strive to grow in our knowledge of the Eucharist and our faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. However, as we learn more, our hearts
will hopefully grow with a deep love for God and the Eucharist. Once this love becomes strong, the love of God through the Eucharist will become the central focus and priority of our lives. As St. Ignatius of Antioch said, “I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ, which is love that cannot be destroyed.”
Along with the document on the Eucharist, the USCCB also announced a National Eucharistic Congress that will take place in Indianapolis in 2024. Eucharistic congresses are gatherings of clergy, religious and the laity to celebrate and glorify the Holy Eucharist while seeking to spread its knowledge and love throughout the world. The National Eucharistic Congress is the culmination of a three-year eucharistic revival in the Catholic Church, which begins on the feast of Corpus Christi on June 16, 2022. For more details about this revival, I invite you to go to the following site: www.eucharisticrevival.org
Hopefully, this eucharistic revival will serve as a spark for Catholics across the United States to help reignite their faith by being healed, converted, formed and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and to be sent out in mission “for the life of the world.” For as we receive Christ in the Eucharist, our desire is to be strengthened to go out into the world and to put our faith into action through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In other words, the Eucharist nourishes us to be the face of Jesus for those who need him most. This echoes St. Teresa of Kolkata’s words, “We cannot say that we love Jesus only in the Eucharist – naturally, we want to put that love into action. We cannot separate the Eucharist and the poor.”
As you read this column, perhaps it will motivate you to embrace a New Year’s resolution to re-educate yourself on the Eucharist. For if the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Christian life, then we will be eager to fully embrace the words of Jesus, who 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.” (John 6:51)