The lack of faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist in the U.S.
I’m writing at a restaurant. To my right, four high school students share a table. Further down, I see a dad with three kids. In front of me, an elderly couple. To my left, two young ladies dine and chat.
Each of them sat down after writing one more page in the book of life they have received as a gift from God. Different stories converge this evening for a reason we all share: We are hungry and need to feed ourselves. Each of us is here in a group — the meal is an excuse to satisfy a different fundamental need: to feel the company of others, to feed ourselves and not to feel alone. We gather to share the table, the meal, the bread, our conversation, our time. In other words, we gather to share ourselves with others.
Gathering to share a meal turns the animal act of eating to stay alive into a human act. We nourish our body with the bread and feed our spirit with the company of others and their conversation.
The Son of God who became a man knows well these two needs, vital for the human being: to be fed and to share with someone else. He chose to make of those the most sublime sacrament: the holy Eucharist. A banquet where he is both the host and the meal. He gathers us around his table and serves us a piece of bread that has become his body and a cup of wine that has become his blood by the power of the Holy Spirit. A meal not to be consumed individually, but collectively. A sacrament that we celebrate by gathering to share, to give ourselves to others, becoming the church, the mystical body of Christ.
Jesus wants to satisfy our hunger by giving himself as a meal that offers eternal life and a personal communion with him. He satisfies our need to feel the company of others by gathering us as a church, the collective communion of his mystical body.
It is a banquet that celebrates the eucharistic sacrifice of the Son of God, who dies on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins and resurrects so we can have eternal life. As a sacrament, the Eucharist is a sensible sign of God invisible. Jesus wants to make it clear that he gets inside us, by becoming a meal we ingest. So big is his love that he gives himself away in fullness: body, blood, soul and divinity, through such a miracle of infinite love, in which God becomes so tiny, simple and humble, to get inside us.
Sadly, not everyone trusts Jesus when he says, “This is my body. This is my blood.” A recent study by the Pew Research Center revealed that, in the United States, 76% of Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist — they believe the consecrated bread and wine are mere symbols of Jesus.
To my dismay, the Sunday after this study was published, I heard from the ambo during the homily, “We all knew about this. There is nothing to worry about.” We actually have a strong reason to be concerned! Such apathy, poor catechesis and the proliferation of liturgical abuses have contributed to this lack of faith in a sacrament that should be “the source and summit of Christian life.” (Lumen Gentium 11)
The three out of 10 Catholics who do believe Jesus is present in the consecrated bread and wine must work harder than ever, under the guidance of our shepherds, to improve eucharistic catechesis. We must bear a blunt and convincing witness, through our reverence before the Blessed Sacrament, particularly during the celebration of Holy Mass, that Jesus Christ is real, and is present.
Be passionate about our faith!
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - October 2019