Monday, November 29, 2010

Real Presence on this side of the Eucharist

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a meal at a café when I noticed a young couple seated at the table next to me. What made me take notice of them was the fact that for the entire duration of their meal, they hardly spoke to each other, but were furiously tapping away on their individual ‘smart’ phones, which is getting very common nowadays. What I saw made me lament silently – with the advent of modes of communication that are so advanced, where even phones can be given the title ‘smart’, we seem to be facing a deplorable lack of the real ability to communicate when we are in the presence of another, even when seated right in front of another person.

In the Catholic Church, we have always believed that Christ is truly present in the consecrated species of bread and wine. It is given the term ‘real presence’. Reserved in Monstrances around the world in chapels and adoration rooms, this real presence of Christ is on grand display for us to spend time with the Lord, to communicate with him, and for him to communicate with us.

His real presence invites us, on this side of the Eucharist, to ultimately be truly and really present to Him. This is needed, more and more these days, for various reasons, the chief one being that it prepares us for our ultimate and highest calling in life – to be eventually present to God in heaven, ‘face to face’. The more we hold this mystery and purposefully make the effort to spend quality time with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration, the more we ready our hearts for that real, present and endless encounter.

The ability to be present is being constantly compromised, and I daresay, threatened. Our minds just cannot seem to stay long on being present, but seek to constantly flit from thought to thought, image to image, thrill to thrill, and resists to be abiding in a presence, in the present. Our hearts truly are restless, till they rest in God, as St Augustine said.

Yet, we are still not convinced, and allow our hearts to continue to be tickled and teased, even when in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We would wish that with all the communication devices available, we would somehow find it easier to communicate with one another, and be more present to one another, but ironically, we are dumbing down in our ability to do so.

Does it mean that the solution is to completely do away with all this technology and turn back the clock of our intellectual advancement? Is the removal of a distraction, the banning of any one thing an answer that will make us communicate better? If so, would it not be tantamount to removal of the ability to sin, so that we are always living in a state of grace?

Underlying all overtures of love is the fundamental belief that love must be a decision, as the Marriage Encounter and Engagement Encounter movements have reiterated since their existence. In this short phrase lies the crux of love - that it is a decision. So is communication a decision. Removal of our gadgets and gizmos that are called communication devices is not a solution to this problem if our hearts are not first going to make communication a decision.

As I shared these thoughts with a parishioner, he sighed and said, “those were the days when there were no mobile phones, no pagers, no Internet, and we had to make the effort to either visit or write letters to communicate”. He feels that the advent of these communication devices is a bane to our human development.

I feel differently. In fact, when a decision to put down that phone is made, when we turn off the computer and sit down to talk, it makes that effort even more valuable as a deliberate act of love now because when that happens, it is not a matter of having ‘no choice’, but rather, ‘lots of choices’, making the choice to love a much higher value than before.

And while we develop our real presence before others, we must also allow ourselves to be fully present to God in a decided manner, especially before the Eucharist, so that our real presence meets the Real Presence, causing real presence on both sides of the Eucharist.


  1. dear luke,
    as usual you are very poignant in your reflections that causes one to truly stop and should consider writing a book at some point....

    as i have often said you are a gift to our archdiocese....thanks for your real presence on the blog....


  2. Perhaps the young couple was updating their tweeter that they were having a wonderful meal with their darling. This actually happened to friend of mine. She said she was so gushed by her hubby’s attentiveness during the meal. Another time, a mother took a picture of her young daughter and posted on her facebook saying “fantastic bonding time between mother and daughter”.

    Then again, perhaps not as you said the young couple didn’t talk. In the above, there were actual conversations and the protagonists just wanted to shout out to the world they were present in the other persons’ life.

    “When you look at the life Jesus lived you don't find Jesus distracted. You don't find Jesus rushed. You don't find Jesus worried. You don't find Jesus having to do it all. You don’t find Jesus living with guilt.” - Rob Bell

    Just came across this quote just now and I thought immediately of your blog. Perhaps the reasons we can't be present are as mentioned above - we are bogged down by worries and guilt. Other times, we feel we have to rush as there is another important thing to attend to. A classic case of having to do it all would be my friend who is so self-absorbed in his career. He is so distracted by the belief that the company (which is not even his) cannot function without him. It started with a simple “no choice, I have to talk the call” to his wife and children. The adulation of his office massaged his ego so much that he became absent for the family even when he was physically present. Eventually, he abandons the family.

    I agree with you, Fr Luke, that it is not what we live with but how we choose to live. There will be lots of choices in life. And right choice would be to love first. And we can only love right when we are present to the Real Presence on this side of the Eucharist.

    PS. Fr Erbin is right you know. Make that choice!

  3. It's a challenge to be totally present to Presence or see Him " face to face" , this side of the Eucharist. This expression strikes a memory chord with what CS Lewis said through his main character in one of his fictional works - "...I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly ....why should they hear the babble that we think we mean ?.....How can they (the gods) meet us face to face till we have faces ?...."
    Similarly, for us, perhaps we cannot face God face to face until we have faces, until we want to face up to our real self ? And that's why we are so fidgety even in the real Presence ? For when we face Him face to face , we are facing reality and truth and unless we know ( also accept) who we really are, we cannot be 'pure of heart', we cannot speak truthfully.....and so sadly we cannot 'see God' ?

  4. Hi Fr Luke,
    Jesus is Truly Alive,if we are wholly present during the Eucharistic celebration,our real presence will experience the Real presence of our True And Only Love.
    Thank you Jesus for the Gift of Your Priests.

  5. Dear Fr. Luke

    Another perspective I would humbly like to add is that even if in the beginning, we are unable to be present before His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament (due to our distractions, frustrations, fatigue etc), making that decision/choice to make regular/daily visits to spend an hour or more with Him is a decision to Love. Only in and through Him, are we able to love the way He loves. Some people had commented to me that I'm so free to come to Church everyday in the Adoration Room. Yes, I make sure that I have that free time each day with our Lord because it is the only way to sustain me each day. Distracted with many things, on some days, yes, but we must never underestimate the power and attractiveness of our Lord Jesus, truly present, to draw us to Him amidst those distractions. He is just too attractive to resist! Yes, make that decision to spend quality time with Him, despite distractions!

    PS: I also support the idea by Fr Erbin. Consolidate your writings and thoughts and write a book lah Fr Luke, for the benefits of so many of your humble sheeps :-)

    Nicole Maria