Before the Cross | Eucharist, sum and summit of our faith
I've decided to write about the Eucharist during the summer months since in this lectionary cycle, we will hear at Sunday Mass the Bread of Life discourse from St. John's Gospel. But rather than simply describe what this great sacrament means to us using abstract theological language, I'm going to write about 12 women and men who dedicated their lives to Christ and who were distinguished in their love for the Blessed Sacrament. I hope that their lives can serve as an inspiration for us as we deepen our understanding of, and our devotion to, this marvelous mystery of our faith.
Here is a list of those I'll be writing about this summer, along with a brief quotation from each:
• St. Thomas Aquinas (June 8) -- "The Blessed Sacrament is the perfect sacrament of the Lord's passion, since it contains Christ Himself and His Passion."
• St. Cyril of Jerusalem (June 15) -- "The bread and wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the holy and adorable Trinity were simply bread and wine. But after the invocation the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ."
• St. Paul (June 29) -- "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).
• St. Alphonsus Liguori (July 13) -- "Christ is present on our altars ... to show us the love which He bears us, by being pleased to dwell night and day hidden in the midst of us."
• St. Teresa of Avila (July 20) -- "God the Father bestows on us indescribable blessings through the humanity of His Son."
• St. Peter Julian Eymard (July 27) -- "In all that He did from the Incarnation to the Cross, the end Jesus Christ had in mind was the gift of the Eucharist."
• St. ThÃ©rÃ¨se of Lisieux, the Little Flower (Aug. 3) -- "The Eucharist on earth is both the anticipation and promise of communion with God in heaven."
• St. Augustine (Aug. 10 ) -- "The Holy Eucharist is our daily bread from heaven. Live as to deserve to receive it daily."
• Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Aug. 17) -- "If I can give you any advice, I beg you to get closer to the Eucharist and to Jesus."
• St. Ambrose (Aug. 24) -- "This is the bread of everlasting life which supports the substance of our souls."
• St. Francis of Assisi (Aug. 31) -- "Just as he appeared to the apostles in the flesh, Christ is visible to us in the Sacred Bread and Wine."
• Blessed John Paul II (Sept. 7) -- "The first two sacraments (baptism and confirmation) and the most holy mystery of the Eucharist are linked with the vocation to the priesthood and episcopate by a bond o strong and deep that it constantly reveals new riches to our grateful hearts."
I have chosen a dozen holy women and men to illustrate what the Eucharist means to our Catholic faith. Obviously, there could be many more. In fact, I think it's fair to say that every saint is deeply devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. Why? Because Christ is present -- really and truly -- in the eucharistic mystery. He invites us to enter into holy communion with Him each time we participate in this great mystery.
The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches that the holy Eucharist is "the sum and summit" of Christian life. Everything else -- worship, ministry, fellowship and apostolic works -- all flow from the celebration of this great sacrament of Christ's love.
St. Ignatius Loyola once wrote, "Our Lord is generous even to exhaustion; and what is most wonderful is, that He gives Himself thus entirely, not once only, but every day, if we wish it. Every fresh Communion is a new gift which Jesus Christ makes of Himself."
Are we ready to accept this generous gift from Christ? Do we recognize it for the precious gift that it truly is?
Join me over the next three months in reflecting on this magnificent gift of God, the holy Eucharist, by meditating on the words and example of 12 people who have come to be known as "eucharistic saints."
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