Real Presence

| Kate Soucheray | September 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

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When I read the articles in the Aug. 22 Catholic Spirit regarding the concept of Real Presence, I was struck by how excited I was. I know that may sound strange to readers, but adult Catholics have been asked the most profound and mysterious question of our faith: Do we believe Jesus the Christ, our Risen Savior, is really present in the Eucharist? And perhaps not shockingly, 69% of adult Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence. Actually, this is not surprising.

How can we believe something so unexplainable and mystifying as Jesus present to us — yes, each and every one of us — when we partake of the sacrament of the Eucharist? What does this mean and why should it mean anything to us? Let me share a few experiences I had when I was at The St. Paul Seminary about 20 years ago.

When I was in my Eucharist class for my master’s degree in theology, Tom Fisch, who taught Socratic style, asked “What difference does it make if the bread and wine are not changed at the Eucharist?” Socratic style involves asking students difficult questions and letting them mull and stew over their response.

Rather than provide a quick and easy answer, the professor allows the students to struggle to find a response deep within themselves. As the class sat there and Fisch quietly repeated his question, we all looked around at each other, as if to say, “That wasn’t in the reading for this week.”

I decided to try an answer, and if it was incorrect, it would at least get the conversation rolling. I said, more as a question, “If it is not changed, then we are not changed?” Fisch replied, “Exactly!”

Do we fully understand this concept? How could we? Our limited thinking and limited brain could not possibly comprehend this very complex, very mysterious concept. That is why this is called faith. For you see, when we are changed by the Eucharist, we become the real presence of Christ in the world. And that is another mysterious, complex concept taught at the seminary in a class by Gene Scapanski, which is Realized Eschatology, which is nothing more than that heaven is in our midst when we are the real presence of Christ in our world.

But what does this look like? When we are kind, considerate, and forgiving of infractions from others, we bring the real presence of Christ into the world. When we offer to help others and alleviate their pain, even if for only a moment, we are Christ’s real presence in the world. When we hold and comfort a child, we are Christ’s real presence in that moment. You see, the Real Presence of the Eucharist must be lived in our everyday experiences, or the Eucharist has little more meaning for us than a symbol.

ACTION STRATEGYBefore you attend Mass this weekend, take time to ask yourself how you could live out your faith in simple and loving ways. When you partake of the Eucharist, ask the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of the risen Christ within each one of us, to fill you with patience and peace for all you will encounter throughout the upcoming week.

It is for this reason that Catholic Charities and the many ministries of the Catholic Church exist: We are a living example of the Eucharist. St. James stated, “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:14-26). We must have both, or we have neither.

When I was posing a question to a professor in a sacrament class at the seminary, a fellow student asked if my question was a pastoral question or a theological question. I responded that my question was either both theological and pastoral, or it was neither. Our faith must be lived; there is no other way to understand being Catholic.

Being a Catholic means we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and this belief changes and transforms each one of us to become the real presence of Christ in the world, which then transforms the world.

This, in essence, was the message of Jesus, his life, and his ministry. I once read a quote in an ecclesiology text that stated “Jesus’ mission has a church.” We are that Church and our mission is Jesus’ mission, which is to love, accept, console, comfort, and extend goodness to one another. And that is the lived expression of the real presence of Jesus in
the Eucharist.

Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul.

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Category: Simple Holiness