respondingtolove

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” (1 Cor 11:23-25)

The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways, she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) But in the Holy Eucharist, through changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. (CCC 1374) The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways, she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) But in the Holy Eucharist, through changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. (CCC 1374) 

 

I sit this Sunday feeling empty and sad that I will not be able to attend Sunday Mass. I will not be able to receive the Eucharist today. There is a persistent bug being passed around our community and my wife has been fighting it off for a few days. And today, I have a scratchy throat and post-nasal drip, too, so no Mass for us. What if not being able to go to Mass, except for the rare occasion, was the norm? Do you think about how infrequently our brothers and sisters in bush Alaska have a priest? The Diocese of Fairbanks is a unique diocese within the United States. Its geographical vastness, lack of roads, extreme temperatures and topography, and shortage of clergy present very real barriers to the regular celebration of the Mass--and consequently, the reception of the Holy Eucharist--for many of our brothers and sisters in rural northern Alaska.This very real separation from our priests, our liturgy, our Eucharist, is a great cross for many of the faithful. We should pray for those who are not able to commune with the Lord Jesus regularly. We should also pray for an increase in vocations for our diocese, as well as safe travels for our priests, deacons, and Bishop Zielinski. 

We should also strive to remember that Jesus is always with us: “Yet he is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:27-28) We have our being in Christ. He is our life, our breath, our love. So, we must do our best to be open to the presence of the Lord in each moment of our lives. Even if circumstances beyond our control keep us from receiving Communion, Christ is constantly inviting us to contemplate and continue to live within the moment that we receive His Body and Blood. He invites us to take that moment with us and to continue to adore him in thanksgiving. We can remain in communion with God even if we are separated from the celebration of the Mass for one Sunday or for many Sundays, because in him we have our being.

I am an adult convert, who discovered the beauty of the Catholic faith after a long spiritual journey. After my conversion, I decided to study for a graduate degree at Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon. While there, I had a wonderful spiritual director who helped me grow in my knowledge of the Church and develop a deeper spiritual life. 

During my first year at Mt. Angel, my wife and I had our first child, a beautiful daughter we named Cora. After a few months of being a dad, I tearfully told my director that I couldn’t picture life without my daughter. I couldn’t imagine continuing to live or even existing anymore, if anything ever happened to her. I asked the director what I would do if I ever lost my beautiful daughter. After a moment, she said, “You would just give thanks to God for the time you had with her.” 

It took some time to realize the true wisdom of the director’s statement. All things--even all people--pass away. How sad it is when a child goes to God ahead of his or her parent. Yet in all things, even in the most tragic loss of a child, we are called to give thanks for the wonderful times we shared with God’s gift to us of our child. 

The only gift that never passes away is the ultimate gift of love, the gift of God’s son, Jesus, who is present to us in the Holy Eucharist, and remains with us in our being. He truly is with us always, not just to the end of life, but beyond, in heaven.  

The Eucharist Christ offered in the upper room is “the source and summit” of the Christian life. (CCC 1324-1327) Most of us have the great privilege, joy, and obligation to receive Jesus in the Eucharist every Sunday; we even have the opportunity to partake of the holiest of blessings near the altar during the weekdays, too, in daily Mass. But not everyone is blessed to have such frequent access to the sacraments, including our brothers and sisters in the bush. Please remember to pray for those in our diocese not able to receive our Blessed Savior in the Eucharist on a regular basis.

 

“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”-St. Francis de Sales


Additional Reading:

Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II (2003)

Paul Hollomon grew up in Anchorage, then worked as a bush pilot in western Alaska. He served as a Methodist minister in his 30s, then converted to Catholicism. He attended Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon, where he met Bishop Chad Zielinski while earning his Master’s in Theology and Scripture. Paul and his wife, Michele, raised and homeschooled their four children in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they still reside. He can be reached at Paulhowabout@aol.com.