I had a pocket watch that belonged to my grandfather, who was a mailman in Seattle. Poppa Boats, we called him, because his second career was welding ships during WWII. We moved to the Bay Area,
so I did not really get to know my grandfather very well, but my memories of him are special—learning how to cast using a fly pole, bowling, and holding on for dear life when I road with him around
town. I inherited his watch and for years I kept it, wearing it to special events. I attached a watch chain to it and really thought it was cool. Years ago I passed it on to our oldest son, George Ryan, as a family keepsake; he is a fourth generation “George”.
I imagine that you have something special that you’ve inherited—a table cloth that belonged to your grandmother; a fishing rod; jewelry; a family photo taken decades ago. We all have memories of people
we have loved and who loved us, so holding on to something that refreshes that memory helps us remain connected. Such keepsakes also remind us that we have things special to us that we might want
to gift to others at some point.
Now think about Jesus, God’s only Son, Who desired to remain with us always, even unto the end of time. Knowing that he was about to return to the Father, Jesus wanted to give us something so incredibly
special that we would know for certain we are loved. That something…Himself! His very Body and Blood as food for our souls and to unite us as a faith community.
We humans are limited in what we can gift to others; NOT GOD! Jesus fed us with His Word—the Good News, while on earth. He miraculously fed thousands of His followers with bread and fish when they were starving. He healed the sick, restored life to the dead, ate with the untouchables of his day, and engaged with everyone—Jew and gentile, women and children, rich and poor. That was 2000 years ago—before our time. For us He has given Himself, body and blood, soul and divinity, in Holy Communion.
For 2000 years, Catholic Christians have known in faith that the bread and wine, once consecrated by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of the priest, IS the flesh and blood of Jesus. So it’s heartbreaking to learn that today a majority of Catholics consider Holy Eucharist to be merely symbolic of Jesus’ flesh and blood, and not the real thing–much like a photograph is just an image of something or someone.
But this is NOT what Jesus told His apostles on the night of the Last Supper—His final words before His death on the cross! After blessing and breaking the unleavened bread, Jesus gave it to His disciples,
saying: “Take it; this IS My Body”. Then, after blessing the cup of wine, Jesus said, “This IS My blood of the new covenant which will be shed for many.” In St. John’s gospel, Chapter 6, Jesus proclaims,
“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. (6:51) “Amen, amen. I say to you, unless
you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you…(pause) For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” (6:53-55).
The doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the height and the summit of our Catholic faith. It is THE CORE belief that binds us together as a Catholic Christian family. Bishop Robert Barron says, “Without the Eucharist, we could be a pious congregation…or a society dedicated to the memory and teachings of Jesus, but we couldn’t possibly be the Church (the Body of Christ).” “…the Eucharist is not a luxury, but a necessity, for without it we would, in the spiritual sense, starve to death.”
Are you a Catholic who struggles to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? If so, consider this analogy: most of us believe that a commercial flight is piloted by trained individuals whom
we never view; faith is the action that follows when we board the plane. If you struggle to believe that Jesus can/is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, but you want to believe, pray for the faith, the action,
to believe. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit will strengthen your belief AND your faith in the Real Presence. A stronger faith will inspire you to rejoice as a Catholic Christian—certain that Jesus is
truly present each and every time you receive His Body and His Blood in Holy Eucharist.
This Corpus Christi Sunday we affirm and celebrate the gift of Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist. United in faith, we go forth to proclaim Jesus resurrected, Jesus glorified, and Jesus Christ present
for and within us all of our days.