Monday, November 12, 2012

First Saturday: The Real Presence

Our First Saturday gathering for November was beautiful. Father Joseph Mary, of the Community of St. John, spoke to us on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Locally, Father Joseph Mary is a well-loved speaker, as his talks are done with such great love for the Lord, the Truth, and the Church, yet gracefully balanced with gentleness and humor. We were so blessed to have him speak to our group! The following are my notes from his talk. I know his passion will not be done justice through my written summary, but I hope his message will stir within you a desire to learn more and spend time in the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perpetual Adoration
In the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI has challenged bishops to have at least one perpetual adoration chapel in every diocese. There are 2500 chapels in the world, with over 1000 of those in the United States and another 500 in the Phillipines. (My note: aren't we blessed to have two perpetual adoration chapels right here in Peoria, less than two miles from each other! There's nowhere I'd rather be right now than in our great diocese, under the faithful and bold leadership of Bishop Jenky!)

The Real Presence
Our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist allows us to put God first. When we put God first, everything else falls into place. A story was told of a Buddhist man who prayed daily at a Catholic church. When asked why, he said, "If God is really here, shouldn't I be here too?" Another story related a Protestant's experience with the Eucharist, in which he felt a "Presence," as opposed to an "absence." St. John Vianney also had a strong love for the Eucharist, and when teaching his students would come to tears crying out, "He's really there! He's really there!" Truly, for those whose hearts are open to believing, the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is powerful and undeniable.

So why do we believe in the Real Presence, that the Eucharist truly IS the Body and Blood of Jesus, that he is truly present to us in the Blessed Sacrament? Because Jesus says He is. We believe that at the Last Supper, Jesus had the power to transform bread and wine into His own Body and Blood, and we believe that He continues to do so through the priesthood He then established. Though ascended into heaven, He remains present to us through love and will remain with us until He returns.

As Catholics, as believers in the Real Presence, we have the opportunity to interact with Jesus Himself in three ways: by adoring, by receiving, and by giving thanks.

We Adore Jesus in the Eucharist
Just as with human relationships, when you are in the presence of the one you love, you are filled with joy, and when you are away, you desire to be in their presence. So it is with Jesus - we want to be where He is. The more we believe in Him, the more we want to be with Him, to adore Him, and to receive Him. Fulton Sheen, when he was ordained, committed to making a Holy Hour every day. He continued this practice until his death, and he also encouraged all Catholics to make a daily Holy Hour.

As creatures, the created, it is a natural act to adore one's Creator. In John chapter 9 we read of the man born blind. In 9:35-37, Jesus elicits an act of faith and reveals Himself to the man. The man immediately worships Him. The man's instinctive reaction was to adore the Creator. To adore is an act of humility.

In contrast, the lack of adoration is rooted in pride. There is no adoration in Hell. While those in Hell are forced to intellectually realize the existence and power of God, their pride will not voluntarily acknowledge that God is first. The refusal to adore, to recognize God's authority and goodness, is the source of arrogance, sadness, anger, frustration, and death.

There are four aspects of adoration.
  1. We acknowledge intellectually that God is first and we are entirely dependent on Him.
  2. We lovingly and freely accept this dependence.
  3. We thank the Creator for the gift of our exisitence and all the gifts He has given us.
  4. We offer sacrifices of ourselves - time, material items, and our very being.
The spirit of adoration leads us to more fervently, frequently, and reverently receive. Adoration leads the way to Confession and the Eucharist because it allows us to humble ourselves, recognize that God is first, and desire to be with Him and to receive Him.

We Receive Jesus in the Eucharist

Why do we receive Jesus in the Eucharist? Jesus commanded us to take and eat in John 6:53-58.

In 1 Corinthians 11:27 we read, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord."  If we are consciously in a state of mortal sin, we should not receive the Eucharist.

We receive Jesus to become more like Him. Christ, who is Love, becomes Love Incarnate in the Eucharist. The Eucharist helps us to follow Jesus and live like Jesus; it is "food for the way" (viaticum).

We Give Thanks for Jesus in the Eucharist

Following the reception of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is not just appropriate or recommended to give thanks, it is again a natural act. As creatures we are naturally in thanksgiving for the gift of our Creator.

In addition to the time immediately following the Eucharist, it is good to make an act of thanksgiving for 5-10 minutes after Mass, not only in thanksgiving to God but as a sign to others and yourself of the Real Presence of Jesus. Just getting up and leaving after Mass like nothing happened is like inviting a special guest to your home and after 10 minutes saying "See ya, I've gotta get to a baseball game." St. Sharbel spent seven hours in preparation for Mass and seven hours in thanksgiving afterwards!

In Conclusion
Consider how much time you waste in a day or a week. Give some to Jesus. If you want to spend eternity with Jesus, start now! Fulton Sheen said that if you spend time with Jesus on earth, He will recognize you when you get to heaven.

Keep a spirit of adoration all day, humbling yourself as the creation, in adoration of the Creator. The Dominican father who founded the Community of St. John recommended seven acts of adoration each day. Pray wherever you are. Particularly when you are anxious or troubled, when your focus is more on yourself than on God, make an act of adoration and give yourself and your worries to God.

Recognize that God is first. Your degree of love and charity on earth determines your degree of joy and glory in heaven.

For those who were present, if you have additional notes or quotes from Fr. Joseph Mary's talk, please post them in the comments! To all who read this, I encourage each of you to spend an hour in Adoration of our Lord this week. If you've been away from the Church, Confession, or the Eucharist, Jesus is waiting to see you!

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