The Eucharist Is Part of an Epic Rescue Mission by God to Heal Us
‘We’re shopping for teapots on Amazon with all the energies of our hearts meant for prayer, meditation and spiritual renewal,’ says Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary.
FARGO, N.D. — By the end of his talk at a Eucharistic Revival conference in September, Msgr. James Shea had roused the room of more than 1,000 Catholics to a standing ovation, having likened the Eucharist to an epic rescue mission by God.
But the keynote talk did not begin so inspiring. Rather, the University of Mary president had begun by sharing the direst of news: “Things are much, much worse than they seem.”
Delivering the worst news first, he suggested studies revealing a lagging belief in the Real Presence, even among “Eucharistic Catholics,” are “cheerful” in comparison to the reality.
Indeed, even the most fervent among us have only a tepid belief in the Eucharist, according to Msgr. Shea, who called efforts to reinvigorate Eucharistic devotion “one of the most important things that will happen in our lifetime.”
And he insisted that, while important, clarity in teaching and reverence in worship are not enough — “something else is at work.”
‘Inbreaking of the Invisible World’
Eucharistic worship, Msgr. Shea explained, is taking the goods of creation and holding them up to God in order that they would be transformed. “It’s the inbreaking of the invisible world.”
But the natural world is deceptive for fallen creatures, he said, because it tries to captivate all of our vision, and we’ve all inherited a “spiritual eye cancer” from our first parents.
“God’s mission of salvation was to come into the world … to rescue us from our mortal blindness … and give us a new way of seeing; seeing beyond the visible into the truly real,” Msgr. Shea said.
The difference between our faith and every other religion, he added, is that other religions go out seeking the divine, whereas, in Christianity, the Divine comes seeking us. “He came in search of us. He invaded this world … to set us free, to heal our cancer of the eyes.”
An Epic Rescue Mission
This rescue mission from God, he said, starts in the Old Testament, with the creation story, the pinnacle of which is the fashioning of man and woman; “the breathing into the soul of man.”
Then, in Exodus, Msgr. Shea said, we go on a great adventure with Moses and Pharoah, through plagues, frogs, trembles and earthquakes, until, in Chapters 25 to 40, we begin to receive detailed instructions on how to build a tabernacle.
Why? “God is working with Moses to establish a bit of heaven on earth,” Msgr. Shea said, “providing for an invasion of the invisible world,” offering a blueprint of heaven. “He was teaching Moses liturgy, with the intention that if things were arranged in accord with God’s pattern, then he could come to dwell with us.”
Then, in the New Testament, he continued, we find Jesus, who is “constantly calling his followers to an allegiance to the invisible world.”
Prayer Over Worldly Promises
In every age, humans have turned to prayer, but these days, the internet has often replaced meditation and heart-to-heart prayer, Msgr. Shea continued. “What is prayer but the offering of our thoughts, feelings and desires to another — to God?” he said, adding that many people’s posts on Twitter and Facebook supplant prayer’s role: “We’re shopping for teapots on Amazon with all the energies of our hearts that are meant for prayer, meditation and spiritual renewal.”
But, when we delve into prayer with this kind of openhearted vulnerability to the divine, he continued, we are received with compassion and love and can experience healing.
Enter the Eucharist
Turning our eyes on Jesus, we can be revived. “The visible world does not make sense unless we understand what’s behind it,” Msgr. Shea said, noting that, without a compelling, coherent view of the world, nothing has meaning. But with God, and an invisible world, “everything we do matters and has significance … and we can climb like champions and fulfill our true vocation.”
“The Eucharist is the nuclear powerhouse of the sacramental vision that we’re called to,” he underscored, and can be found every day upon our altars with the command, “Do this in memory of me.”
“The Eucharist is a great mercy for us,” Msgr. Shea concluded. “It gives us a deep gaze into the invisible world, and we can trust God, who has told us it is true.”