Monday, May 11, 2020

The real presence God gives us is in need of a reciprocal presence right now.

Catholics who are familiar with and know their basic doctrines well have very little problem with the teaching that in the Blessed Sacrament is the true presence of Jesus Christ, who is the second person of the Holy Trinity in his full divinity and humanity in the form of consecrated bread that is materially made of only water and wheat flour.  

It is because of this belief that he is fully and truly present in the Eucharist that we Catholics give the highest reverence to the Blessed Sacrament by adoring him in adoration rooms all over the world and worshipping him wherever the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and venerated in gesture, word and song.  

We Catholics are a very sacramentally-centered people, and every of the seven sacraments give us a very tactile and sensual experience of God’s love and grace.  As well, we are keenly aware that the God of the universe wants to give us an experience and a true encounter of how much he loves us through our five senses.  For this we are extremely blessed.

But something has happened in the past three months or so that has made us acutely aware of how impoverished we are when our free access to encounter God’s love in the sacraments have been curtailed and suspended.  Before all these corona restrictions, when I gave talks or reflected with groups of parishioners of how weak and malnourished we would be if the Eucharist was no longer easily accessible to us Catholics, it would only be something conjectured, like some fantasy (or nightmare) which one needs to activate one’s imagination to conjure up.  It wasn’t something that they could readily relate to.  And to be sure, most would not do all they can to fire up their imaginations to really make that situation so real that it strikes the heart. Up till now.

This present generation of Catholics all over the world do not even need to fire up any part of the brain that is used to imagine anything now, when it comes to thinking of how it would be to not gain access to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, or to any celebration of the sacraments for that matter.  The unthinkable has happened, and our faith needs to allow us to believe that God has allowed this unfortunate turn of events to happen, simply because there is nothing that can happen without God allowing it to.

There is, I daresay, a “downside” to our high dependency on the sacraments to experience God’s grace and love. And the downside is that it can lead us to believe that once we are cut off from the sacraments of the Church, that we are consequently left godless and defenseless when it comes to battling against sin and evil.  This belief is not only dangerous but also very wrong.  

I have always been repeating to my listeners and readers that real presence is also really a two way process. Real presence requires the response of real presence.  Even if we take the seemingly ridiculous example of art for instance, the principle applies.  

Imagine going to an art museum, and there on one of the walls that is protected by alarms triggered when invisible laser beams are interrupted and behind bullet proof glass is Leonardo da Vinci’s la Giaconda, otherwise more popularly known as the Mona Lisa.  

You can be sure that the lines going into the museum, leading to the display of this world famous painting will be very long (social distancing not withstanding) if we are told by the authorities that this was the real painting and not a replica.  Our time given for us to stand right in front of this masterpiece will be precious, and we will be giving it our fullest attention, and in that way, our real presence, because it is the real thing.  The real deal deserves our real response.

But if we know that it was a traveling exhibit of very good replicas of the real thing, and we are told of this by the authorities, you can be certain that as we browse the various replicas of the old masters, our appreciation of the artwork before us will be dialed down a lot, and there will be a much poorer response from our side simply because what is before us is only a replica and an ersatz version of the original work of art which is safely displayed in the Musee de Louvre in Paris, France.  

Now let us return the issue of our real presence before Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist.  I truly believe that the more Catholics respond to Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist with a greater activation of their will and intellect, and let this truth that the God of the Universe is right there in front of us giving us his love, his grace and his mercy, the more the Church will make a strong impact on the world that it is called to evangelize and convert.  One of the chief reasons that Jesus’ clarion call to every disciple to be bearers of his truth to others is moving at the speed of a melting glacier is because Jesus’ real presence has not been given the opportunity to be of real impact to the average Catholic.  

I am not only referring to people who go to Adoration Rooms, but to the larger general populace, which are the Catholics who receive Jesus’ real presence in the reception of Holy Communion every day, in every country, all over the world.

Once we activate this real response to become what we eat, I am certain that we will become less wimpy and weak when we face challenges when it comes to being evangelists because our lives will be changed from within.  

Yes, right now, we are in many ways curtailed from receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, but that should not give us any excuse to stop effort on our part in being Christ to others.  Even if Jesus’ real Eucharistic presence in our lives is being curbed, it cannot and should not stop us from being his real presence through our love, care, charity, forgiveness and Christ-like concern for others.  In this case, just because we don’t have the real presence does not mean that we should lie fallow our faith and our aspiration for greatness to be a priestly and holy people.

The reason we are capable of this is because when we were Confirmed in the Sacrament of Confirmation, each of us was empowered by the Holy Spirit and anointed for mission.  Praying that God will help us to reactivate the Holy Spirit’s power in us at times like this is crucial and necessary, not just for the present, but for an active spiritual life from this point onward in our Christian lives.

Many people have been wanting things to go back to normal once the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.  I, on the other hand, DO NOT want things to go back to normal, if normal was the way we had been so slow and lackadaisical in our response to evangelizers of Jesus.  I certainly do not want to go back to normal and only see Catholics merely interested in being Sunday Catholics and weekday agnostics.  If that was a normal, it was a normal that needed to be ramped up many notches.

Rather, I want things to change what was a bad normal, to being a new and re-energized and re-purposed normal, where normal is now a new response to Christ’s call to truly love the Lord God with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love neighbour as ourselves.  The new normal needs to see us give our real presence to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist so that we can be Eucharist to others wherever we go.

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