A few years back, I was standing at the back of my Church, ready to proceed with the Gospel book in hand like any other Sunday morning.
As the choir started to sing the gathering song, a young man approached me and asked, “What is that shiny box?” — pointing at the tabernacle inside the Blessed Sacrament Chapel — “Why are people kneeling in front of it?” The question caught me off guard, and as I began to walk in the procession, the only words that came out of my mouth were: “See me after Mass!” Unfortunately, after Mass was over, I couldn’t find that young man. I don’t even ever remember seeing him at Church prior to that day. I felt like I had lost the opportunity to introduce this young man to the best gift we Catholics have — Jesus Christ — in His real presence at the Eucharist secured inside a “shiny box” – the tabernacle.
Reflecting on this occasion reminds me that, regardless of age, many Catholics have trouble understanding that the bread and wine we offer at Mass becomes the actual Body and Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the act of consecration. The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are really, truly, substantially and dependably present together with Jesus’ Soul and Divinity. He is present to nourish our souls because of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, which takes place at the altar table.
Christ’s true presence remains in the Eucharistic elements long after the consecration and Mass has ended. That is why we keep His true body inside the tabernacle so we can bring Him later to our brothers and sisters that are sick, in prison or unable to participate in person at Mass. We kneel in front of Him and spend time in joyful and thankful prayer as we remember that the Eucharist is Christ’s dying gift and that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ within us. This is our faith and what the Catholic Church teaches about the Eucharist, The Eucharist provides us with superabundant nourishment. It is the supreme act of self-giving. It is a sign of overflowing love for us. At every Mass, the priest reenacts Jesus’ actions at the last supper. He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to the people. The Eucharist is a sacrament of love! Many tend to narrow the consideration of the Eucharist to the basic sacramental elements of bread and wine. But we know that the Eucharist is more. The Eucharist is our commitment to give ourselves as Jesus gave himself to us. The Eucharist is the principal sacramental celebration of the Church. It is the food for the journey.
As the Bishops of the United States continue to invite us to embrace and celebrate this gift of life, the Eucharist, let’s use these three years of the National Eucharistic Revival as a time for us to reflect deeper on the meaning of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Now is the time for us to renew our love, belief, and commitment to the Eucharist, Jesus Christ’s gift to us! Let’s take the time to visit and spend time in prayer with Christ, who is waiting for us inside that “shiny box” (the tabernacle) — calling us to convert and rekindle our relationship with Him. Jesus Christ, now and forever!