Tuesday, July 26, 2022

‘National Eucharistic Revival’ Needed More Than Ever

Last month the U.S. Catholic bishops launched a 3-year campaign called the “National Eucharistic Revival.” The purpose of this new program is to re-awaken among Catholics the meaning and critical importance of the Eucharist.

You may remember news reports a few years ago about a survey of American Catholics that found a full 70-percent do not believe the historic Church teaching about the Eucharist. From the very beginning of Christianity 2,000 years ago, the Church has clearly taught that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist — body, blood, soul, and divinity.
Unlike what some groups claim, the Church did not develop the doctrine of the Real Presence many centuries after Jesus’ earthly ministry. The doctrine was proclaimed by Jesus Himself in the “Bread of Life” discourse, which is recorded in John’s gospel, chapter 6.

Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

Then, after the people listening to Jesus grumbled at His shocking words, Jesus double-downed on his stunning message by declaring: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:54-56).

So, of all the Church doctrines, the Real Presence should be the least controverial. It came right from the mouth of Jesus. There should be no debate, since the Lord could not have been more clear: His body and blood are really, truly, no kidding, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die PRESENT in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. 

And yet, 70-percent of American Catholics think the Eucharist is just symbolic; that is, the bread and wine only represent Jesus’ body and blood, but are not actually transformed at Mass. It’s all just a very nice and sweet and symbolic gesture. 

Nope. That’s not what Jesus said. And that’s not what the Church has taught. Not even close. Jesus made it very clear that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. He did not say we need to do a little play-acting, which will give us warm, fuzzy feelings. He clearly said we have to EAT His flesh and DRINK His blood so that we can live forever.
Well, how can this be? Easy. As Christians, we believe that miracles happen. (“Miracle” being defined as something outside the normal laws of nature.) We believe God created the heavens and the earth. That’s a miracle. We believe Jesus died but then rose from the dead. Another miracle. So, why is it such a big deal to believe that God can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ? Just another wonderful miracle.

The modern world has become so secularized, or so jaded about Church authority, that we’ve reached the point where seven out of 10 Catholics do not believe one of the most important teachings Jesus ever offered: that mere bread and wine are transformed into His real body and blood, and that we need to partake of this miracle to be in communion with Him.

So, without a doubt, this is the perfect time for the bishops to initiate a special program that emphasizes the Church’s teaching — er, I mean, Jesus’ teaching — on the Eucharist.

And this is a good time to mention that this year’s Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference also will focus on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This year’s theme is “God Is With Us!”, which is exactly what the Eucharist is: God in the flesh truly with us, present on the altar during every Mass.

It’s not too early to mark your calendars. The Men’s Conference this year will be on Saturday, September 24th, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There’s a new location this year: Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford. As usual, the guest speakers will be terrific, and this year an old favorite is back: Fr. Larry Richards. Fr. Larry is one of the most dynamic and entertaining speakers I’ve ever heard, and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about the Eucharist.
There will be good food, good fellowship, Eucharistic adoration, Confession, and the concluding Mass celebrated by Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair.

So, mark your calendar and go online and purchase tickets. It will be a great day. And in the meantime, get involved with your parish’s “National Eucharistic Revival” activities. The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Christian life, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains. The Eucharist is really Jesus, in the flesh. And we need to know it, love it, and live it.

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