BY JOEL PADGETT
Special to The Message
In describing the purpose of Catechetical Sunday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website states, “Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel.” Then it goes on to announce this year’s theme: “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). Taken from Christ’s words instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Last Supper, it is no surprise that these words of Jesus were chosen for this year’s theme, given that we are now almost three months into a nationwide Eucharistic Renewal.
Bringing these two aspects together—the purpose of Catechetical Sunday and this year’s theme—is precisely what I would like to reflect on. In other words, “What role do you play, by virtue of your Baptism, in the Eucharistic Renewal that is currently underway?” In a lot of my other articles on the Eucharistic Renewal, I have focused on what our diocese, parishes and schools are doing; all of those initiatives have been published online at www.evdio.org/eucharistic-renewal for anyone to see.
Without taking any of that for granted, I believe that now is the moment to refocus our gaze inwardly. The Eucharistic Renewal is not merely the responsibility of the United States bishops, or of our clergy, or of any of our catechetical leaders. It is the privilege of all of us, which means each and every one of us—clergy and laity. It is a challenge and an invitation that, just as it is set before me, is set before you. Even if no one else did anything at all to help foster a renewed devotion to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, what are you doing?
It may simply be a part of our fallen human nature, but I do believe that there is a tendency to look toward what others may or may not be doing; and I do not exclude myself from this. By all means, we can definitely invite and encourage others; and if the Holy Spirit has truly inspired us with some wonderful initiatives, we can always share them with an attitude of charity and detachment. However, at the end of the day, the best thing that we can do, both for ourselves and for others, is to strive to be the saint that God calls us to be. Just because someone else might not be doing something, doesn’t mean that I can’t grow in my love for the Eucharist. In fact, the more that I grow in my love for the Eucharist, the more that I will radiate that love and devotion to others.
One of the awesome things about today’s world is that there is a superabundance of excellent resources to learn more about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. In coming to a greater relationship with the person of Christ, knowledge and love go hand in hand. We cannot totally love someone we don’t know, and we will never fully know someone if we don’t love them. Knowledge and love thus form a sort of “virtuous cycle” (as opposed to a vicious one). Furthermore, one of the best ways to grow in my relationship with Christ in the Eucharist is to spend time with Him, be it by frequently attending Mass, visiting an adoration chapel or simply sitting quietly before the tabernacle. (Yes, Jesus loves it when He is visited in the tabernacle, even if there isn’t exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.)
We are so incredibly blessed in the United States and in the Diocese of Evansville. My heart breaks when I read the stories of how the Catholic Church is currently being persecuted in places like Nicaragua and Nigeria. Likewise, I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a mission territory where the sacraments might only be available a few times a year. In our diocese, one would be hard pressed to have to drive 30 minutes to find a Catholic church. In other words, no matter where I am at in our diocese, Christ’s Eucharistic presence is less than 30 minutes away. And most of the diocese has various options even when it comes to attending daily Mass. What a grace!
Lest I leave you without any suggestions for how to take personal ownership of the Eucharistic Renewal, I would simply point you in the direction of the Renewal’s four goals: (1) Believe: Foster belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; (2) Worship: Foster attendance at Mass, as well as valuing Mass in its entirety; (3) Live: Encourage living in such a way so as to reflect the Eucharist in our daily lives; (4) Share: Encourage sharing the truth, beauty and goodness of Mass with others so that they in turn may be drawn to it.
At another time, I may delve into them. For now, I merely wish to offer a few reflection questions based on them, and I would encourage you to please take them to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. In addition to what you might respond, maybe He might have something to add.
- Believe: What is one concrete thing I could do this year to strengthen my faith in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist? What is one concrete thing I could do this year to strengthen my understanding of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist?
- Worship: Do I regularly attend Mass? If not, why? Do I value Mass in its entirety? What part of the Mass do I struggle with the most? Do I desire to appreciate that part more? What can I do to learn more about that part of the Mass? Do I have regular time set aside to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, be it at an adoration chapel or simply by visiting a nearby Church?
- Live: Does my life reflect my belief that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist? Is that reflected in my life’s priorities? If I look at where I spend my time during the week, what place do the Eucharist and—consequently—acts of charity occupy? Do I take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation to help me grow in my union with God in order to better prepare myself to receive Christ in the Eucharist and, in turn, more fully give of myself to others after having received Him?
- Share: Do I see Mass and adoration as precious gifts? Do they give meaning to my life? Do I yearn for others to share these treasures? Do I want them to discover that they are known and loved by a personal God who wishes to be with them and give himself to them as healing and nourishment in the Eucharist? Does my heart break when I see others suffer without knowing the love of Christ in the Eucharist and how He longs to console them through His presence?
Simply put, I would suggest that your role and my role in the Eucharistic Renewal is ultimately to fall in love with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, to fall in love with Him to such an extent that our entire lives are transformed by Him. If it be so, everything else will fall in place. As Jesus tells us, which we hear spoken to us through His priests at every single Mass, “This is my body given for you.” He is with us. He is waiting for us. He gives himself to us. Do not be afraid to let yourself be consumed by His love, and, in imitating Him, give yourself to others.