For the past two years our parish has held what is called a Holy Hour – a time when a larger host contained within a round glass holder (a luna) is taken from the Tabernacle by the priest and placed in the monstrance – an ornately decorated receptacle which serves to show the Sacred Host – and is displayed for all those who come with faith and devotion to pray in silence before the Lord Jesus Christ.
The purpose of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is meant to lead us to a greater appreciation of Jesus whom we receive in Communion in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.
Okay, now I know that everything I just said above sounds very “churchy”, the stuff of religious talk from a priest, but believe me, Jesus is REALLY there in the monstrance during Adoration during a Holy Hour and is REALLY present and there in the Tabernacle and when we receive Him in Holy Communion. How do I know? I’ve seen Him!
Yes, that’s right. I’ve seen the Lord in a way that only confirms what I have always known and believed about the Eucharist. And the way that I saw Jesus on one particular occasion has also been seen by other priests who have also shared their personal experience with me and others.
It was years ago when I was pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Barrie. Following a school Mass that was celebrated in the church a parishioner came to me holding a host they said they found in the parking lot. Shocked (but not so shocked) at the fact that someone would be so ignorant (def. – not knowing) of the reality of Jesus truly in the Sacred Host or why someone who doesn’t believe would take the Host in the first place, I carefully took the Host from the parishioner and put it in a container with water and placed it in the Tabernacle so that it could dissolve. A few days later I opened the Tabernacle to examine the Host but could not believe what my eyes beheld – the Host, which had partially dissolved in the clear water, had visible tinges of red, the colour of blood, on it. One cannot take a piece of bread (of the same ingredients as an unconsecrated host) and by placing it in water find the colour red. There is nothing in bread alone that will produce this colour except that it was no longer ‘bread’ following the consecration of the Mass when that Host was consecrated. As St. Thomas Aquinas so beautifully said, “For those without faith, no explanation is possible; for those who have faith, no explanation is necessary”.
But why should we be surprised by this? The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist wasn’t an invention of the Church, though a good chunk of Christianity dropped it along with priesthood and sacraments and the authority of the Pope. No, the Eucharist was given to us by Jesus’ own words of command uttered and remembered by first the Apostles and then written down forever by the Gospel writers as well as St. Paul.
The night before Jesus’ death, he had gathered his Apostles in the place where he told them He would share the Passover meal with them. But at this Jewish ritual meal he changed the words of the Passover by adding “This is my body” and “This is my blood” over bread and a cup of wine, adding, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Do what? Keep this memorial of His Death until He comes again. That’s why for 2 millennia the Church has been celebrating the coming of Jesus in His Real Presence in the Mass ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting” all over the earth, everyday, everywhere.
There is something you’re not going to ever hear on the news much less talked about among Catholics, though we should – the staggering number of baptized Catholics who never receive the Eucharist. What we do talk about particularly in the sacramental life is the number of people who don’t go to Mass but that sounds more like a failure to show up at a weekly meeting than it does for not receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus himself said,
6:27 “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
6:51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
6:53-56 “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
Notice how much emphasis Jesus places on the direct and unifying link between ‘his body’, ‘himself’ and ‘the bread’. Jesus is saying something so astounding, unbelievable and yet absolutely essential for our lives. Yet it is not magic bread that if distributed will do miraculous things to the recipients. Some knowledge of “Who” this Bread of Life is is necessary. We know that many of the people who heard this teaching from Jesus walked away from it, literally 6:66 “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him”. Seven-year-old children receive the Eucharist for the first time at this age so that they may receive, with some understanding, ‘Who’ it is they are receiving. And this reception is reinforced in the child’s mind by parents who see to it that this Eucharistic reception is made a reality in both the child’s and the family’s life each week. Jesus is made central.
Therefore, what are we saying to our children when they receive Jesus for the first time (with much celebration and congratulations heaped on the child) but it is followed by a total neglect of Jesus in the subsequent Sundays? Would not the parents be teaching their children that the Eucharist is optional, unnecessary and certainly not central? Sadly, yes.
Practiced non-belief in the centrality of the Eucharist among Catholics has become epidemic and has been increasingly passed onto children for the past four decades.
Our first pope, Saint Peter, spoke for all of the disciples when he said about Jesus’ revelation of the Eucharist –
“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and know that you are the
Holy One of God.” (John. 6:68-70)