Let the Eucharist Renew You on Corpus Christi
EDITORIAL: With each Holy Communion, Catholics should pray that Jesus makes them into true disciples.
All over the world, Catholics come to Mass, where Jesus is truly made present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — with the miracle of the Eucharist. And they come, knowing there is a chance this Eucharist may be their last on earth.
That was the case on Pentecost Sunday at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Nigeria, when dozens of our Catholic brothers and sisters went to Mass and received the Holy Eucharist — at the cost of their lives.
Here in the United States, we receive the Eucharist, offer a thanksgiving, and then “go in peace” — often without deeply appreciating the great gift of the Eucharist or what it means for the other six days of the week.
Only 31% of Catholics believe in Jesus’ Real Presence — understanding that Jesus in the Eucharist is truly our Emmanuel, “God with us.”
The U.S. bishops are fully aware of this profound shortcoming in their flock’s collective faith, and they are mobilizing the Church in America to address it. Corpus Christi Sunday, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, begins the U.S. bishops’ three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which aims to revive Catholic belief in the Eucharist and ignite a grassroots movement of evangelization through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The National Eucharistic Revival recognizes that Jesus, through the gift of the Eucharist, gives his own Body and Blood to nourish those men, women and children who seek lasting fellowship with him. Through the Eucharist, Jesus strengthens those who seek him and makes them into disciples; and through this “Bread of Angels,” his disciples gain the strength to be his apostles, proclaiming the Good News to the peripheries of their own lives.
The Revival should also prompt Catholics to look for inspiration from their fathers and mothers in the faith, considering how the Eucharist transformed them into the very image of Jesus’ love for men and women and gave them strength to be his missionary disciples. We can see this at work in a couple of Catholic stories that are fitting for Father’s Day, which coincides with Corpus Christi Sunday.
Many stories of the Martyrs of La Florida show how the Church in the U.S. can find in them “Martyrs of the Eucharist” because they would not accept a life separated from the Eucharist. The cause’s lead martyr, Antonio Cuipa, a devoted Catholic husband, father, catechist and leader of the Apalachee community, found strength to meet martyrdom, after receiving the Eucharist at the last Mass of his fellow martyr, Father Juan Parga, before lay man and priest together made a failed attempt to rescue a mission under siege.
The Eucharist also empowers Catholics to great heroism and to change the course of a nation. Capt. Andre Cailloux, a devout Black Catholic husband, father and businessman from New Orleans, gave of his material means to help the poor and educate orphans. Without a doubt, the strength of the Eucharist made Capt. Cailloux the “American Spartacus” at Port Hudson; the sacrifice of his own life helped pave the way for Black Americans to join the U.S. Army, turn the tide of the Civil War, and make our country truly the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Through the power of the Eucharist, Jesus gives ordinary men, women and children the strength to overcome sin and do the great works of the Gospel. The Eucharist transformed the discipleship of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, a widow with five children, whose belief in the Eucharist turned her into a great evangelizer through Catholic education.
She wrote, “This Heavenly bread of angels removes my pains, my cares — warms, cheers, soothes, contents and renews my whole being.”
As Pope Francis rightly points out, the “Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect.” We all struggle with sin, and the Eucharist is medicine for our souls, not a token of club membership. But the Eucharist is also not a “prize for the powerful,” and Catholic belief in the Eucharist is shaken when bishops fail to distinguish between the Catholic caught in some genuine moral difficulty on the path of discipleship and a Catholic public leader who champions various injustices against human life and dignity condemned by the Second Vatican Council as “supreme dishonor to the Creator.”
We need more shepherds like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone — or Archbishop Joseph Rummel and Cardinal Joseph Ritter before him during the civil-rights era — to make clear Catholics cannot actively persecute Jesus in the least of his brethren per Matthew 25 and then use the Eucharist as a public sign that this is coherent with being a faithful Catholic. We cannot afford a muddled Catholic witness, whether it is over abortion, racist ideologies or any other affront to God-given human dignity. We need shepherds to make very clear that a Catholic who publicly works to harm the human family cannot receive the Eucharist, and he or she risks forfeiting their communion with Christ and the Church altogether if he or she persists. In this way, bishops can make plain the Church’s unconditional solidarity with the weak and vulnerable and affirm that Jesus is there in the Eucharist for those Catholics who, with their brokenness, weakness and imperfection, try to follow Jesus and seek the strength to love as Jesus loves.
As we begin the National Eucharistic Revival, Catholics will gather for Mass, process with the Eucharist through neighborhoods, and join in adoration. But this should be only the starting point as the truth of the Eucharist permeates our own bodies and souls over the next three years.
With each Holy Communion, Catholics should pray that Jesus makes them into true disciples, who seek to follow him faithfully, and courageous apostles, who boldly share his Good News through witness and testimony. In such a way, we can embrace the martyrs’ Eucharistic faith, celebrating each Mass joyfully as if it were our last, and sharing the joy of Christ’s Gospel with our neighbors.
With confidence, we will manifest our belief in the Eucharist: that Jesus is really present and “God with us.”