You will be my witness

By Emily Mendez

Connecting Faith and Life

What would it be like if we had a place in our diocese where some faithful people started reporting that Mary was appearing in a field behind their house? Go another step and imagine that the Church approved the apparition. Can you imagine how people would flock to this place and how much excitement there would be? People would be talking about it at the baseball game on Friday night and in passing at the grocery store and posting about it on Facebook and Instagram. It would be special, for sure!

Now, compare that crowd you imagined and the excitement you felt to our churches on Sunday. Maybe even think of our churches for Mass on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Is it the same level of excitement? The same crowd? When we attend Mass, we are not going to the place where some sacred event happened in the past. We are present at the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection, not at a memorial of a historical event, but present at the event itself. If we truly believe that Jesus is present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, what happens at Mass blows away any other exciting event that can come along. What if we were to live like it? No doubt, a Marian apparition would be exciting and definitely draw a crowd, but even Mary always points us to her son and her son is waiting for us, really present, in the Eucharist, always. Can we come to the Eucharist and tell others about it with the enthusiasm that Jesus, fully present, deserves?

We have heard all about the research that shows many Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The number of Catholics who do not attend Mass weekly reflects this. We are in the midst of a Eucharistic Renewal dedicated to renewing the people of God in devotion to the Eucharist. There is a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage going on right now, making a cross across the United States and ending in Indianapolis, Indiana, for the National Eucharistic Congress in July. All are amazing events that have been very well done and will reach a lot of people. But, have you thought about the people who will not be there? Many Catholics who are not showing up for Mass on Sundays are also not going to be making the trip to attend this event. If the numbers really are as staggering as the research shows, then it is not just a handful of people. What the Church needs now, to reach those who are not attending Mass, are witnesses. From the humble beginnings of the original Pentecost people have come to Christ through the witness of others. The apostles left the upper room and started telling people about Jesus — and the Holy Spirit transformed hearts. We need a new Pentecost, flowing as the fruit of the Eucharistic Renewal and taking hold in the hearts of those who believe. Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Jesus told his apostles to be “witnesses.” He told them to spread the news to the “ends of the earth.” That would be quite daunting to hear when you look around the room at how few people there were to spread the message to the whole world (before the telephone, radio, books, TV and the internet), but they did it. The Holy Spirit did it. Why would we doubt that the Holy Spirit can reach the whole world now through us? Our world today is desperate to find meaning, love and peace. What better place to look is there than through Jesus in the Eucharist? Fallen away Catholics need someone to be a witness to them and they are not coming to Mass to hear what our priests have to say. They are sitting by you at the baseball game on Friday night and passing you in the grocery store and reading your posts on social media. Can you share with them what you have seen and heard and experienced in the Eucharist?