Many professing to be Catholic – even among those who attend Sunday Mass regularly – have lost the sense of the Sacred and their belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
The many reasons for this are beyond the scope of this brief reflection.
Let me mention just two (1) the misuse of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist whose assistance at Mass should be restricted to those very rare occasions “whenever the number of faithful wishing to receive Communion is so great that the celebration of Mass would be unduly long (emphasis added); and (2) the failure of so many of us to spend sufficient time in thanksgiving and conversation with the Lord whose Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity we consume.
Since reception under both species is neither required nor recommended for frequent use, can anyone truthfully say that their Sunday Mass would be unduly prolonged if there were no Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist? What is so wrong about extending the time during which silent conversation can take place between we sinners and the Divine Physician now present within our fleshly temples?
Many have forgotten or never experienced days gone by when distribution of Holy Communion to crowds far larger than are now found at most Sunday Masses was more efficient and reverent as communicants kneeled at the altar rail and the priest was the one who came to them.
What is the rush to turn away from our loving Lord while He still remains physically within us? Should we not act as caring and adoring hosts and hostesses to our Heavenly Guest by continuing silent and prolonged interaction with Him after Mass instead of joining the stampede out of the pews? Can we not postpone unnecessary, loud, and idle chatter with those around us until we exit the Church building? The behavior I am suggesting is intended to be the norm, not the exception, in our parishes. Is that the reality in yours?
It’s time to take an honest look at how we treat the King of Kings.
May the following observations from The Sacrifice of the Altar written by Father Federico Suarez cause us to better appreciate the magnificent Gift we receive in the Eucharist, to treat our loving Lord with the attention, love, reverence and respect He deserves, and to receive the full impact of the transforming graces He desires to shower upon us:
“We read in the Gospel of Saint John that when Jesus went to Bethany, to the house of his friend Lazarus, one of his friend’s sisters, called Martha, busied herself about the house. The other, Mary, gave her entire attention to the Lord. It seems that this was by far the more commendable kind of action: if you receive a friend as a guest into your house, you look after him – that is, you keep him company and converse with him. You do not leave Him in the sitting room, or anywhere else in the house reading the newspaper to amuse Himself until you have time to attend to Him. Without doubt this would be a dereliction of good manners. And if the person were of such importance that the mere fact of his coming to your house would be regarded as an honor far surpassing your condition and deserts, the discourtesy would be tantamount to a gross insult.
There is no doubt, then, that when we go to Communion we know very well that the guest we receive is Jesus Christ our Lord. And we also know that as long as the accidents of bread remain unconsumed, the Lord is present really and sacramentally within us. This being so, and our Lord (who is none other than the only-begotten Son of the Father and himself true God) having deigned to come to visit us in spite of our unworthiness, the least we can do is to bear him company and converse with him: that is, we will give him our undivided attention. …
Although…the priest after the purification of the chalice and before the last prayer usually interrupts the conduct of the Mass for a few minutes, so that he himself and those others who have received the Sacrament may give thanks for a space, it is also best not to be in a hurry to part from our Lord, but to remain for some time recollected after the end of Mass.
We are, for these moments, in a sense like monstrances that hold the most precious treasure: Christ is alive within us, given that the sacramental species take several minutes to disappear completely. It is, after all, a courtesy dictated by love and gratitude to keep Our Lord company and, as Saint Teresa says to enter into our soul with Him as Mary did when she received Him in Bethany, and to carry on a conversation with Him. For this we ought to make an effort to maintain a minimum of recollection, subjecting the senses so that they do not be dissipated. In order to concentrate on what is important, we should withhold our attention from outside things so as to center our thoughts on the Guest we have just received in our soul… “
Hopefully, Father Suarez’s words will prompt each of us to ask ourselves some frank questions: What kind of host/hostess have we been to our Eucharistic Guest? Have we, do we, take Him for granted? Are we satisfied with the way we keep Him company and converse with Him and the manner in which we conduct ourselves while in Church and at Mass? Should we resolve to approach and treat Him differently?
The journey toward restoring a sense of the Sacred within our Church buildings and greater awe and amazement for the immense gift of the Eucharist begins one soul at a time.Are you ready to take that first step?