“Bridging the Gap”
By Bishop David A. Zubik
A beautiful thing happened to me this week as I was walking from my apartment to the Chapel of the Holy Family of Nazareth at Saint Paul Seminary. One of our seminarians introduced me to a visitor who recently completed law school and who told me that he was a recent convert.
Our conversation went deep into what had brought him to our Catholic faith. Without hesitation, he told me: it was the Eucharist.
Less than a minute after we met, we were speaking as if we had known each other for years. What drew us into this instant bond was our shared reverence for the foundation of our faith, namely, the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist—Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.
This coming weekend, we as a Universal Church mark the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. It is a celebration that we mark each year, two weeks after the great Feast of Pentecost.
But this year, the feast takes on special significance. It marks the beginning of a three-year National Eucharistic Revival. I couldn’t be more excited!
This revival is taking place because more people need to rediscover what my friend the young lawyer did. A need to realize how much Jesus and His presence in the Blessed Sacrament is the foundation of our lives as Catholic Christians.
You and I constantly see signs that many Catholics have forgotten this foundation. Virtually every Catholic has family members, neighbors and coworkers who have lost sight of the importance of the Holy Eucharist in their lives.
Over the last several decades, more and more people have chosen not come to Mass regularly. Many explanations are offered for that exodus: work responsibilities, busy lives, the secularization of Sunday—which is no longer seen as a day of rest and worship. But what underlies all of that is a lost understanding of the Eucharist.
I saw this more clearly than ever after the COVID lockdown.
The most difficult decision I have ever had to make as a bishop was to shut our churches at a time when no one was certain about how devastating the pandemic might be. I was grateful that, through the miracle of technology, we were able to livestream Holy Mass to everyone with digital access. In addition to the many parishes offering online Mass, it was so important to me that I could celebrate Mass from the seminary chapel—not only every Sunday and every weekday Mass but also Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet as well. It was such a sacred thrill to invite so many people into our chapel. Many of you have shared your gratitude for the chance to be with us for Holy Mass and devotions
While livestreaming was truly a blessing for us all, it sometimes unintentionally fed into a diminished appreciation of the Eucharist. A number of folks delighted in the ability to sit in front of the family TV in their jammies with a box of Cheerios not far away and “enjoy” the Holy Mass. The result was that some came to see livestream Masses as no different from in-person Masses. They appeared to reach a point of no longer missing Holy Communion.
Some weeks ago in this column, I reflected on the unforgettable experience of receiving Holy Communion for the first time. I shared my memories and trust that you, likewise, recalled when you first received Jesus in the Eucharist. But what has happened to the fervor since that first reception? Can we recover it?
In my conversation with the young lawyer, we both emphasized that our understanding of and appreciation for the Eucharist is hardly an academic endeavor. It’s not a matter of intellectual assent. It IS a matter of the heart. To come to treasure and embrace the Eucharist for what it is—the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus–requires falling in love, really falling in love again with Jesus.
Think about those times when you really fell in love. Your greatest longing was to be with, converse with, laugh with, cry with and trust that other person. You lived to connect with them, heart to heart. Nothing could stand in the way of being with, conversing with, laughing with, crying with, trusting with the other, connecting with them heart to heart. When two people fall in love, they never want anything to stand in the way of that heart-to-heart connection. Falling in love is a connection of one heart to another heart.
Falling in love with Jesus can be no less. Jesus offers the gift of Himself in the Eucharist and nothing, absolutely nothing in our lives, should ever stand in the way of that beautiful connection.
As we begin the next three years of National Eucharistic Revival this Corpus Christi Sunday, the Church invites us to make it a way in which we fall in love –really fall in love—with Jesus all over again. You and I can do that, whether we frequently receive Holy Communion or connect with livestreaming or perhaps have not been to Mass in weeks, months or years.
We all know what happens when a love relationship is not nurtured. We’ve seen the damage when couples start to take each other for granted, when friends stop talking with each other, when family members lose sight of their common roots. Relationships diminish, and love grows stale.
It can’t be that way with Jesus. His love for us is so great. We must always remember His words: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6.51).
I don’t know about you, but for me those words are an invitation from Jesus to fall in love—really fall in love—with Him again.
May it be so for us all! Our future—our eternal future—rests on our response. It truly is a matter of our heart to His.