“Love is selfless sacrifice, and sacrifice is the language of love. Love is the gift of ourselves to our beloved. And Christ made a gift of himself — he gave us his Body and Blood — poured himself out for our salvation, when he conquered death by dying and rising again,” Bishop Conley said. “Christ gave us his Body and Blood, as an act of love, so that we could know the love of God.”
“Before he conquered death forever, in a sacrifice of love, Jesus gave himself to the Church in the gift of the Eucharist,” the bishop reflected.
His pastoral letter, “Love Made Visible,” was released for Holy Thursday, when the Catholic liturgy marks the Last Supper. The letter reflects upon the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and draws on the writings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the Eucharist.
“In the Eucharist, the apostles received a share in Christ’s own identity: They became a part of his passion and death, and they became a part of his resurrection,” Bishop Conley said. “The Eucharist unified the apostles to Jesus Christ in the bonds of his sacrificial love.”
Bishop Conley cited Pope Benedict XVI, explaining: When Jesus Christ changes the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, “he anticipates his death, he accepts it into his heart, and he transforms it into an action of love.”
Receiving Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood allows his disciples in the Church to “be unified to him in love.”
“In the Eucharist, we are made sharers in Christ’s mission of love,” Bishop Conley continued. “In the Eucharist, we are called to make disciples of all nations, so that all people will know the freedom of life in the love of the Lord.”
This mission must be renewed daily through a deepening of love for God, and the holy Eucharist is at the heart of this renewal, he said.
“The Eucharist is at the center of every good work that the Church undertakes,” the bishop said. In the gift of the Eucharist, Jesus has given himself to us “so that as we follow him, we can be unified to his life, and he can be present, with us, at all times, until the end of the world.”
Bishop Conley praised Eucharistic adoration as “a particularly powerful encounter with the Lord.” The silence of adoration teaches true humility.
“As we kneel before our Creator-God, we are confronted with the power and the mystery of God’s love,” he continued. “And it is from this silence and humility that we experience a deep communion and friendship with God.”
On June 18, the feast of Corpus Christi, also known as the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Bishop Conley will re-dedicate the Bishops’ Chapel at Lincoln’s Cathedral of the Risen Christ as a perpetual adoration chapel. He prays that the chapel will become “a source of renewal in the hearts of all Catholics, and in our families, and in the world.”
He also encouraged pastors and Catholic schools to provide more opportunities for Eucharistic adoration.
In Bishop Conley’s words: “Kneeling before Christ in the Eucharist, the hopeless find hope. The weak find strength. Captives find freedom. The afflicted find comfort. The mourning find consolation. The lonely find friendship. Sinners find mercy.”
“Kneeling before Christ in the Eucharist, all of us find love. And love is what we are longing for,” he said. “Before Christ in the Eucharist — love made visible — each one of us discovers that the enduring, satisfying, life-giving answer to the questions of our lives is Love: love poured out from Jesus and love poured out from us into the world, as missionaries of Christ’s salvation.”
He praised the longtime practice of Eucharistic adoration in the Lincoln Diocese.
“We are blessed with priests and religious who love and promote Eucharistic adoration, with college students who make Holy Hours in the middle of the night, and with families who kneel before the Eucharist together — with mothers and fathers who teach their children to pray before Jesus.”
Bishop Conley said he wrote the pastoral letter “because God has been impressing upon me lately how important our lives of prayer are, and especially prayer in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”
He said in a statement: “Increasing our devotion to Eucharistic adoration could be transformative in our Church — there is just no telling how much God can do.”
Eucharistic devotion is especially important in a time when technology can distract, he said. “Sitting in silence with the Lord is refreshing, life-changing and heart-changing.”
“The truth is that sitting in silence with the Lord is necessary for a fruitful Catholic life. I want all Catholics to know that we don’t need to be afraid to spend time in silence with Jesus — that He’s waiting to love us and transform our hearts and lives.”