Come, Let Us Adore Him
6/1/2017Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori
The feast of Corpus Christi invites us to worship Christ in the Eucharist and bring his presence to the world
WHEN I WAS about 10 years old, I was very proud and happy to begin serving at holy Mass, but I was also nervous that I would make some pretty serious mistakes. I got over that nervousness and, if I may say so, became a seasoned altar server. I memorized my responses to the Latin prayers and continually tried to improve my pronunciation. I learned the best techniques for lighting the high altar candles, for handling the incense, and so forth. And to this day, celebrating the liturgy correctly and reverently remains one of the greatest priorities and joys of my life.
At one point, my home parish had its annual 40 Hours devotion. Parishioners were invited to come and spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which was placed in a monstrance on the altar. As one of the altar servers, I was expected to take a turn kneeling in the sanctuary for about an hour. An hour can seem like an awfully long time to a boy of 12, and I was no exception. But something happened during that hour. What my parents and teachers had taught me about the Eucharist began to sink in. I realized that I really was in the presence of Jesus and that he loved me. It was as simple as that. It was a watershed moment in my young life.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST
Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament so long ago, I could not have said it so eloquently, but that’s what happened to me. I didn’t have many lofty ideas or thoughts on ethics, but I did truly encounter the Lord. I realized that he loved me, and that made all the difference. This is why I strive, in spite of all my faults and failings, to be a follower of Christ and a member of Christ’s Body, the Church. This is why I am a priest.
In this month of June, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This great feast, also known as Corpus Christi, is an invitation for us to encounter the Lord more deeply in the Eucharist. It is also a grace-filled opportunity for us to renew our understanding and love of this sacrament, for it is the most powerful and effective way to enter into the presence of Jesus and encounter his love for us.
At the heart of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist is a wonderful and consoling truth. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God who became one of us, preached the Good News, died and rose to save us, and is now exalted at the Father’s right hand, remains with us in this sacrament. By the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the words of consecration uttered by the priest, bread and wine are completely changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Although the appearances of bread and wine remain after the consecration, they are no longer such but rather the living personal Presence of Christ, crucified, risen and exalted. We call this miracle that takes place on our altars “transubstantiation.” This is how Jesus becomes our spiritual food and drink so as to nourish our souls.
Even after Mass has ended, Jesus remains with us in the tabernacles of our churches. For this reason, the Church lovingly invites us not only to attend Mass but also to take part in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and to take time to pray before the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle.
As St. John Paul II once wrote, “The Church and the world have great need for eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go and meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1380).
Once we have welcomed the eucharistic Lord into the depths of our hearts, nothing remains the same. Christianity becomes not a sideline but a way of life. What we say and what we do, the choices we make, the way we treat others — most especially the poor and the troubled — all are shaped by our repeated encounters with the Lord. United deeply to Christ our life, we commit ourselves to the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel. We see the Church not merely as an institution but as the Body of Christ, of which we are living members. We want everyone to know Jesus and to welcome him into their hearts. We want the Church to be strong and unified so that others may believe.
Who knows what graces will be ours as we unite in prayer before Jesus in the Eucharist? How many hearts will be touched with the truth and beauty of the Gospel? How many vocations to the priesthood and religious life will be fostered? How many sinners will be converted? How many sins atoned for? How many bodies and souls healed of physical and spiritual infirmities? How many lukewarm Christians converted into ardent followers of Christ?
As the family of the Knights of Columbus, let us find in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar the source and summit of our charity, unity and fraternity. Let us take the feast of Corpus Christi to heart.