The National Eucharistic Revival launched June 19, 2022 on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, began as a three-year initiative with a mission to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”

Sponsored by the USCCB, the revival aims to “inspire people to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist” and to “show everyone what wonders the True Presence of Jesus can do to heal the soul.”

A recent Pew study revealed that a shockingly small number of Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Just “one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.”

In 2014, an article published in National Review by Michael Barone mentioned the trend of Millennials (people born after 1980) to remain “largely unattached to politics and religion.” Barone went on to say that “some 29% of Millennials are religiously unaffiliated, a percentage that has been rising in recent years. They’re evidently moving away from their parents’ religion but not toward one of their own.”

This trend suggests that members of younger generations have not only detached themselves from their parents’ religion, but they are also making little effort to adopt a new one. Even so, our Lord continues to reveal His very real presence in the Eucharist in countless ways, from the testimony of young Bl. Carlo Acutis, who documented Eucharistic miracles before his death in 2006, to more recent cases, such as the one currently being investigated in Thomaston, Connecticut.

Back in March, Fr. Joseph Crowley of St. Thomas church in Thomaston reported that as a minister was distributing hosts to the congregation during Communion at Mass, the hosts in the ciborium ran out, but then the ciborium was miraculously refilled with hosts, leaving the stunned ministers with the same number of (or even more) consecrated hosts as when they started.

It seems that our Lord is continually granting Eucharistic miracles, even during the present time, to reassure the faithful that He is, indeed, with us “always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).

At the very core of our Catholic faith is the belief that Jesus is present in the sacraments, and that particularly through the Eucharist and Reconciliation, the graces of healing and ongoing conversion are granted. For those who have been away from the Church for some time, these two sacraments are a vital means of bringing a person back into a state of grace and repairing their relationship with God and others.

The recognition that one is in need of healing combined with the living source of that healing in the Real Presence of Christ is a cornerstone of our Catholic faith; Pope Francis reminds us that “the Eucharist is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners!”

Encountering Christ in the Unexpected

The 2011 book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre examines the historical context into which Jesus was born, and describes the sort of Messiah people of those times were expecting.

Pitre emphasizes that to a devout Jew of that time, Scripture absolutely forbade the drinking of the blood of an animal: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you … Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gen 9: 3-4).

The book of Leviticus is severe in its condemnation of partaking in the blood of an animal: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement, by reason of its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, no person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood” (Lev 17: 10-12).

How utterly confusing, then, the words of Jesus to His followers that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6: 53-55).

Of particular interest here is the use of the word “indeed,” which means “in fact” or “in truth.” The nature of this truth was still being revealed. Perhaps fledgling Christians were not to do these things until the appointed time.

How many rites of passage do we look forward to as young people–driving a car, drinking an alcoholic beverage, voting in an election–that are considered illegal until the appointed time? However, once we arrive at the appointed age of maturity, are not some things then considered appropriate, and also necessary or expected?

And here we have the very contradictory nature of so much of Christianity that both baffles and amazes us, and thwarts the best efforts of those stuck in rigid mindsets to adhere to the letter of the law, rather than its spirit.

An article in the April 16-22, 2023 issue of Our Sunday Visitor entitled “The Church of Mercy” reiterated this rigorist approach to teaching Christian morality. The “worst kind” of moralism, stated the article, “is the kind that reduces the Gospel to a list of do’s and don’ts. Recall that Pope Benedict XVI insisted that Christianity was not merely the result of an ‘ethical choice’ but was fundamentally about meeting the person Jesus Christ.”

One key phrase in this article sums up the very heart of the struggle the Church faces while trying to reconcile discipline with mercy, static dogma with doctrinal development, methodical rule-following with pastoral guidance. Quoting Pope Benedict, it said, “To be merciful we need to help bridge the gap, to illuminate the experience of people’s lives with the teaching of Jesus so that they may discover that the deepest truth of their hearts will only be satisfied in life lived with him.”

And at the very heart of this life with Christ is the Eucharist.

In June 2021, presiding over the Corpus Christi Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis reflected on the meeting of the Apostles with the Risen Lord in the Upper Room, noting that it was “a large room for a tiny piece of Bread.”

The Holy Father said, “This symbolizes how God makes Himself tiny, like a morsel of bread,” and why we “need a great heart to be able to recognize, adore and receive Him.”

Pope Francis went on to say that the Church must be a “large room, and not a small, closed space, but instead a community with arms wide open, welcoming to all, where everyone can enter.” He reminded us that “the Eucharist is meant to nourish those who are weary and hungry along the way,” and pointed out that a “Church of the pure and perfect is a room with no place for anyone.”

This notion of mercy is the very crux of our faith. However, some in the Church advocate returning to the “old ways” of doing things, so to speak, in an effort to recover what has been lost — namely, a sense of reverence, respect for tradition, and order and decorum. Others prefer to be guided by the nudging of the Holy Spirit, who acknowledges the times in which believers live and provides the graces needed in the times and places they are in the current moment to share the message of salvation with those around them and accomplish the will of God in the most unusual of ways.

Deliverance and Mercy

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally-celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. While President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, more than two years passed before the news reached African-Americans living in Texas. It was not until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865 that Texans finally learned of the formal abolition of slavery, and the former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, song, and dance.

There are varying historical accounts on the reasons why the news took so long to reach Texas. One recounts that federal troops waited for slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the new law. Another story says that the messenger sent to tell the news of freedom was murdered on his way to Texas.

Whatever the reason, the delayed delivery of a vital message of freedom and mercy to an enslaved population is a recurring theme throughout history. Sister Faustina brought the message of Divine Mercy to the world at the cost of great personal suffering; she was ridiculed and misunderstood during her lifetime and even after her death. But eventually she was declared a saint, prompting the feast of Divine Mercy. We celebrate it every year on the Sunday after Easter, and it has amassed a wealth of countless graces for the faithful all over the world.

The lessons we learn from these significant historical events is that the message of mercy may be delayed or hindered, but it will be delivered at the appointed time. Our Lord desires to deliver us all from slavery to sin, and offers countless methods and messengers of His mercy at appointed times — if only we have the courage to listen.

It means that we recognize the weight behind the words Jesus spoke when He said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink My blood, you have no life within you,” and “I came to call sinners.”

And we understand that these two teachings are both doctrinally sound and inseparable.

Image: Adobe Stock. By Antoine.

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Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky.  As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries.  She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.

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