Last month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly passed its long-debated document on the Eucharist. To say there has been a flood of commentary about that document and the circumstances surrounding it — with the debate over how the church’s pastors should shepherd Catholic politicians who take policy positions contradicting the faith — would be an understatement. A lot of words have been spent debating those complex questions, and many people have strong feelings one way or the other.
Those strong feelings may tempt some to miss the most important part of why the U.S. bishops addressed the Eucharist, and that would be a tragic mistake. The bishops, in light of studies suggesting many of the faithful do not fully appreciate or believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, have embarked on a three-year Eucharistic Revival, to bring the faithful to a deeper eucharistic faith.
The Second Vatican Council teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” We believe that body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ are made truly present for us under the appearance of bread and wine, and that receiving Holy Communion is an act of the most intimate connection to him, when he gives us his very life and pours out the abundant graces of the Paschal Mystery to strengthen and heal and save us.
Those who don’t know or believe this are missing out on this profound gift of God and the graces that accompany it. That is truly a profound loss we must try to address. But even for those who believe, we are always in need of growing in our understanding and gratitude for this great mystery.
The Eucharistic Revival, then, is something every Catholic can and should embrace. Look for the opportunities the coming years will provide to deepen our encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to find there his healing and love, and to truly make this great gift of God the source and summit of our lives.