He is Risen! He has sent us His Spirit. He has invited us to share in the very life of the Triune God, and now He invites us more deeply into the Communion of His Body and Blood. This is one of the most graced times of our liturgical year, as we celebrate these great Feasts back to back. As we celebrate them, we not only commemorate what they celebrate, but we open our hearts to the grace of these great mysteries! This weekend we celebrate the gift that is at the very heart of our identity as Catholics—the presence of the Eucharistic Lord! The importance of our receiving this incomparable gift is explained by the quote from the Gospel of John cited above. All of us want life, more life! But the life that our hearts most deeply crave is the supernatural life of God that we were created to receive. That life is most perfectly nourished when we receive the King of Kings Himself! This is, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council pointed out, “The source and summit of the Christian life!” (q.v. Sacrosanctum Concilium, #10) For what could be more of the source of the Christian life than the Person of the Lord Jesus Himself, Who is received every time we receive Communion?
When the Lord Jesus began to teach about His Eucharistic Presence, it caused controversy—how could He give us His very Body and Blood? Many who had been His disciples walked away at that point. Why? Possibly because they trusted more in their own “wisdom” than they did in the ability of the Lord Jesus to do this seemingly impossible thing: to give us Himself as food and drink. From the very beginning the Church has seriously guarded this priceless gift of the Eucharist. The importance of the Eucharistic Lord was obviously understood by the disciples, who are described as meeting in their homes every day for the gift of the Eucharist! The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been the center of the Church’s life since that Last Supper in 33 AD. This great Feast was instituted to remind the People of God of the gift that they have been given, so that, with greater understanding, they may fully cooperate with this invitation to worship and receive Him. The grace that is present in this feast is the grace to recognize and ever more deeply treasure this Eucharistic Presence. It is no small thing to affirm our faith in the dogma that bread and wine are transformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! Many currently doubt this and the great tragedy is that many follow the lead of those early disciples who could not understand and so walked away. We are given today an invitation to more deeply affirm this truth, that it really is the Lord Jesus Himself, present for us; present to adore, present to receive!
As we come to more fully treasure this gift, we are reminded of our responsibility to share the Good News that we have been given, including the Good News of the Presence of the Eucharistic Lord. If we affirm that the quote from St. John cited above is true, how can we then not share that with those who have not yet opened themselves to His Eucharistic Presence? Our inviting folks to participate in Alpha may be for some a vehicle to begin this. If they participate in Alpha and open themselves to the deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus that Alpha brings about, they will also have a deeper understanding of the Word of God. Then the Scriptures that proclaim His Eucharistic Presence can begin to touch their hearts as well, so that, with Alpha as an introduction to the things of God, they can respond to the gentle invitation of the Holy Spirit and hopefully come to seek more deeply the full life in the Church the King invites them to!—Fr. Ed