I believe that the Church’s proudest possession has been the Holy Eucharist, God’s greatest gift to His people; but perhaps we do not always appreciate its unique value. From the beginning, Christians assembled in private homes and relived the Last Supper; and communion was taken to the sick people who could not come. The custom developed of keeping hosts for Holy Communion somewhere safe, so that they would be available to the priest or deacon in an emergency. St. Justin the Martyr, who died in 165 A.D., and whose feast we celebrated this past week, describes this for us.
Jesus is present in the Eucharist, even when reserved in the tabernacle. This is the body and blood of the risen and living Lord. He deserves our attention, indeed our adoration, not only at the moment of communion but whenever we come into the church. So, celebrating the Divine Presence in Mass and Holy Communion is as old as the Church herself. The greatest saint and scholar of the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote superb hymns in praise of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, some of which we still sing today.
Over the centuries the custom developed of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession, for the veneration of believers. In many countries, such as Poland and Italy, there are processions through the streets, with the Holy Eucharist exposed in a precious casing called a monstrance. Children scatter rose petals, citizens hang colored banners out of their windows, the town band plays.
What about us? If we had lived in Galilee or Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, we would have had the greatest difficulty in getting anywhere near Him, with the curious crowds and the scores of sick people. If we did get the chance to speak to Him, after thirty seconds someone else would have elbowed us out of the way. But in the tabernacle here, Our Lord is alive and welcoming. A sanctuary lamp, always burning, is a sign of that. Christ invites us to come and spend time with Him. Hopefully, our Adoration Chapel will soon be reopened, where we can have a face-to-face encounter, and gaze upon the Lord. Until then, we can still visit Jesus in our church, opened during most of the day. Here, in the Eucharist, we can have that quiet, prolonged, personal conversation that is the heart of all prayer.
As we seek to pay fitting homage to our Eucharistic King through the devoted and careful celebration of the Holy Mass, may we always feel the gentle presence of Jesus, drawing us like a magnet to his company. In this way, may we come to an ever greater realization that the law of the heart is love.
45 students from our 8th Grade at St. Vincent Ferrer School will graduate this Sunday at the 11:00 a.m. Mass. I know you will keep them in your prayers, and I hope that they will continue their prayer life and spiritual growth by regular participation at weekend Mass throughout their high school career and beyond, showing that not only did they excel in academia and sports, but that God is the most important figure in their life and that they will go forth and live as excellent examples of God living within them. Congratulations! Thank you, Mrs. O’Loughlin and Teachers for bringing them to this moment in their lives; and thank you, Parents, for making many sacrifices to send them to an outstanding Catholic school, and for sharing their lives with us; may you be their constant guardian and guide through life.