In Remembrance of Me

“Brothers and sisters:  I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:23-24)

Brothers and sisters, this Lord’s Day the Catholic Church throughout the United States inaugurates a three-year period of prayer, catechesis, reflection and action centered on the Holy Eucharist which is, as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II teaches, “the source and summit of the Christian life” (#11). It is being called a “Eucharistic Revival” and is meant to rekindle in us individually and collectively a true understanding of what it is for us to gather at the Lord’s Table…His holy altar…on a weekly, if not daily basis.  

Echoing the words of St. Paul – “for as often you eat this bread and drink the cup” – you and I, sisters and brothers, are being asked to consider what we are doing here every time we gather for the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup; and even more, what do we proclaim as you and I go forth literally fed by the Lord?!  The use of the word, “revival” draws our attention to the fact that this is not meant to be just another observance, but as the word’s meaning indicates: “renewed attention to or interest in something” – as well as – “restoration of force, validity, or effect” as with a contract (or even more with this case, “a covenant”). We see reference to this covenant with God in our first reading where Abram, the father of nations, using gifts of bread and wine presented to Melchizedek, king and priest, renews his covenant with God.

As one Scripture commentator says of today’s feast: 

“As Christians, our remembering is not a passive event where we simply recall what happened in the past.  Rather, our remembering is active.  When we follow Jesus’ command to break the bread and share the cup, we not only remember the historical Jesus of the past, but with words and actions we also celebrate Jesus’ presence with us today as he continues to nourish and sustain us.  We remember the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to the future where the reign of God will be fulfilled.”

This brings you and me back to the question of how does Jesus act in us and through us and with us every time we gather with our Eucharistic Lord?  You may notice that I am not suggesting that what happens here is merely symbolic.  It is not!  No matter what polls or popular opinion suggests – the bread and wine that are placed on the altar table through the working of the Holy Spirit become for us the very Body and Blood of Christ.  Down through the centuries our ancestors in the faith have testified to Christ’s Real Presence.  Closer to our day is a young Italian blessed by the name of Carlo Acutis who was born in 1991 and died of an aggressive form of leukemia in October 2006.

What is extraordinary about Carlo’s life is how in 15 years and as a teenager he became an “Apostle of the Eucharist” to those who knew him as son, friend, and fellow parishioner.  It wasn’t because he was thinking of being a priest, but it was by the very fact that he was a child of God that he longed to sit at Christ’s feet and listen to his Word and then be nourished by his very Body and Blood.  In turn, this experience would lead him to carry Christ to the needy of the neighborhood in which he lived and worshipped.  All in remembrance of the words of Jesus: “Give them some food yourselves” (Lk 9:13).

As one biographer of Carlo’s life has noted: “Besides the usual thing any teenager loves, Carlo had a deep and abiding love for the Eucharist: his ‘highway to heaven.’ His dedication to Mass, even when on vacation, demonstrates his awareness that it is precisely in the Eucharist that we experience our ‘memory of the future.’ The Eucharist, in fact, reveals that we are hidden with Christ in God (see Col 3:3), and by our participation in it, our fragile humanity gradually begins to show signs of its ultimate destiny:  immersion in the life of the Trinity.” Or as was noted in one reflection I found for today’s feast: “As with the Trinity, our understanding of Eucharist is fundamentally grounded in relationship.”

For me, that is what these next three years are about:  renewing our relationship with our Eucharistic Lord in the family of the Church.  In turn, it invites you and me to carry our Lord’s Real Presence into the world in which we live and wherever we find ourselves.  I think that is what can scare us sometimes – and why it might be easier to think of this bread and wine as only symbolic – because if we truly believe who is coming to us in the Eucharist it changes everything!  

 Yet, brothers and sisters, I want to leave you with a final thought to reflect upon – when Jesus takes what seems so little and invites us to share it with others – we will always have more than we need for the journey.  “Give us this day our daily bread” is not just a nice thought!  Today’s gospel proves that Jesus can do what he says – even regarding this piece of bread and this cup of wine – and that He intends to be with us every step of the journey.  As a ten-year-old, Carlo Acutis stated: “Jesus is very creative because he hides in a little piece of bread, and only God could do something so incredible.” 

Let’s not forget this as we now gather around the table of the Lord to “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Amen.

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