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Dear Followers of Jesus,
There is one candle in the sanctuary that is always lit. Even during these months when the church has been empty, one candle flickers. The sanctuary lamp, a large candle set in red glass, glows bright even during COVID-19. This candle is not unique to our parish. For hundreds of years, in sanctuaries across generations and lands, one flicker tells us that the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle.
The flicker of hope has shown during wartimes and national protests. The red globe shines no matter the ups and downs of Wall Street or in periods of ill health or during times when our children begin to walk. We keep the lamp tended when our neighborhoods are flooded or when we mourn a parent’s death. All times, all seasons, the Eucharist is housed in our churches for two reasons, to administer to the sick and for personal devotion.
We have kept the light burning for you. When you all return to church, you most likely will not notice since it is always there. This one small act is actually a statement of faith. We hope that we all will return to our churches to celebrate the action of the Eucharist, to hear the scriptures proclaimed and to offer our lives in bread and wine. The Eucharist that is celebrated is the source and summit of the Christian life as the Second Vatican Council stated. The Mass is the defining prayer of Catholics and the hope that we can live in the world with integrity.
The celebration of the Eucharist is not static. It is not just about the Real Presence of Christ Jesus in the tabernacle, but the action of the Breaking of the Bread at Mass. This action of Christ is given to us so we too may act as Christ did on earth. We break open our lives and hearts in order to live in the action of God’s unbelievable mercy. We are not spectators at Mass. We do not just attend Mass so to check off the obligation to do so. We do not view Mass as something distant and far away. Instead, we are in union with Christ’s offering of his life and death to the Father. We become what we eat. We are sharers in the life of Christ and in hope for all humanity.
The action of the Mass in the sanctuary is only the beginning. The sanctuary and the street are vitally linked. In other words, what we receive at Mass needs to be lived in the world. We are fed with Christ’s love for the sinner, his hope for the persecuted and his forgiveness for those who are most in need of new life. We receive a treasure house of tenderness and compassion in the Eucharist and live that in each encounter with our families, loved ones and strangers. In many ways, once we walk out of the doors of the church after receiving the Real Presence of Christ Jesus, the Mass really begins. It is only there that Christ’s forgiveness will be lived in the world. It is only then, that the world will come to know that justice and peace is at the core of our faith.
On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate the wonder and beauty of Christ’s love for humanity. On the night before he died he gave us the memorial of Eucharist. We have celebrated forms of this mystery ever since throughout the world. As we lift up the Body of Christ at the altar, we also lift up those who are hungry for God, the sick, the lonely, and the tormented. As we lift up the Blood of Christ, we lift up those who sip the Cup of Salvation who are longing for sobriety, for release of doubt and sin and for a sense of belonging. The Eucharist is action among us, transforming our hearts into the message of love that is the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is right now, here before us on earth.
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is not a personal piety alone. This feast celebrates us on earth who have become the Body of Christ. We, as Church, are witness to what we celebrate at Mass. The Church challenges us to live this mystery as a people redeemed in love. We are the Body of Christ and we break open our lives in service and in integrity for other people, just as the host is broken to be shared among us. The Eucharist makes sense when the poor are fed, when the sinner is forgiven and when the oppressed find justice. The Eucharist makes sense when we are all brought into communion and unity with God and one another.
So, the light is on. God is present. The Mass will continue to open up for us, even in the midst of COVID-19. Let us rejoice that Christ Jesus is present in our midst in the Breaking of the Bread and in the Sharing of the Cup.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor
Thank you so much for your thoughts on the Eucharist. I really needed to read them today.