I Am The Bread of Life

The Eucharistic Revival is a grace-filled opportunity for the Church in the United States, the Archdiocese of Detroit, and in this year for all of us at Our Lady of Good Counsel to deepen our love for Jesus Christ, our desire to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and to give witness to Him in the world through our service, called Evangelical Charity.


Do I Really Believe?


1. Do I Really Believe?

The first step to understanding the Lord more deeply and loving the Lord more fully in the Eucharist is to strengthen our belief. I first have to ‘believe’ in Jesus, the Son of God. If I don’t believe, and if I am not aware of myself as one who lives, one who makes decisions, and one who acts from that core belief, then my love, worship, and service is empty.

In the Gospel of John (11: 19-27) we read:

“Many of the Jews had come to
Martha and Mary to comfort them about
their brother Lazarus, who had died…
Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection
and the life; whoever believes in me,
even if he dies will live and anyone
who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?’
She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe
that you are the Christ,
the Son of God, the one
who is coming into the world.’"

The dialogue from this passage is incredibly compelling. There is a simplicity to it. There is a strength and clarity about it. In the midst of experiencing the deep sorrow at the death of a beloved brother, a family member, Martha manifests her belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. At a dark moment, she manifests her belief that her brother, Lazarus, will rise in the resurrection on the last day. It is her credo that shapes who she is, how she sees the world, how she engages those around her, how she gives witness. We know that later in the same passage Jesus in fact raises Lazarus from the dead. And in so doing he reveals his own Sonship and the mystery of the Triune God. It is a revelation that calls for the deepest act of faith, calls for us to say and to live, credo.

It’s one word. It’s a simple word. It’s repeated often, every Sunday, every Solemnity, and every rosary we pray. I believe.Credo is at the heart of who I am, who we are. We are who we are because we believe. We do what we do because we believe. Why should I seek to live a life of virtue if I don’t believe? Why preach, give witness, and commit myself to the truth of the Gospel if I don’t believe? Why seek to receive the sacraments if I don’t believe? Why be ready to endure hardships or challenges from the secular world if I don’t believe?

In the midst of the many challenges we face today, one of the persistent ones is relativism. It’s certainly not a new reality, but we are so immersed in it. It manifests itself in the current trends of society as a rejection or disregard of truth that is often accompanied by a disillusionment and hopelessness. We see that being played out in a number of areas of our society, and you’ve probably heard it in statements like: “You can’t trust any leadership” or “That’s your truth.” The significant impact of such a trend is that it also moves to erode our confidence in the truth, the authority and validity of the Revealed Word of God, particularly about the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. And when the revealed Word of God (the Bible) is dismissed as myth, when we hear “Oh, the Bible is just literature made up by humans” we are confronted with the need to renew again our deepest commitment to what we believe.

Credo, then, is critical because it connects us to what God reveals. When I say “I believe” it’s rooted in what God reveals about Himself, not what I choose or what secular society chooses to create on its own, driven by whatever the current ideology may be. Far too often the lack of belief in our society moves us to a disposition where we seek to create God in our image, to force God into categories that we want, rather than rejoicing what God reveals to us and being formed in God’s image and likeness, which is love. “I believe” in the Christian context seeks to explore first the eternal truths that God desires us to know, and to recognize the enduring beauty, goodness, and dignity of the human person.

Reflection Questions

  1. What am I basing my life decisions on: God, myself or what the world proclaims as truth?

  2. How do my choices reflect that I believe in God, the Real Presence of the Eucharist or the Church?

  3. How have I explored the truths of God to try and understand the mind of God?


For additional reading, please see Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), an encyclical letter written by Pope St. John Paul II in 1998, which helps us understand more clearly the relationship between faith and reason and the confidence we can have in objective truth. In paragraph 12 he writes:

“History therefore becomes the arena where we see what God does for humanity. God comes to us in the things we know best and can verify most easily, the things of our everyday life, apart from which we cannot understand ourselves.

In the Incarnation of the Son of God we see forged the enduring and definitive synthesis which the human mind of itself could not even have imagined: the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face. The truth communicated in Christ's Revelation is therefore no longer confined to a particular place or culture, but is offered to every man and woman who would welcome it as the word which is the absolutely valid source of meaning for human life. Now, in Christ, all have access to the Father, since by his Death and Resurrection Christ has bestowed the divine life which the first Adam had refused (cf. Rom 5:12-15). Through this Revelation, men and women are offered the ultimate truth about their own life and about the goal of history.”


What is the Connection Between Conversion and Belief?


2. What is the Connection Between Conversion and Belief?

When Jesus speaks about believing, he is speaking about how we enter fully into a real relationship. He is speaking about believing in the living God, and truly relating to God in friendship. This is not simply the acceptance or the intellectual acknowledgement of a code of ethics, or a concept or a speculative theory. He is calling us to believe in him, who is the way, the truth, and the life, and to align our intellect and will to Him.

And that is what makes belief such a challenge today. We are in a culture that has lost confidence not only in earthly authority, but more importantly the authority of God. The truthfulness of God. The goodness of God. The love of God. There is a disillusionment for many, and for others a deep anger. Why believe in anyone or anything if it is all a big lie. It is better not to believe in anyone but myself. And that can be a cold and lonely place for people. In fact, I saw a bumper sticker on a car last year that said: “Trust no one!”

With that, I think we can see why Jesus links repentance and the Eucharist with belief. In order to believe, to pour our entire selves into the living relationship with the divine God, we need to be about conversion and repentance each day. It is the graced movement and surrender of allowing God to do what God needs to do in our hearts. It is being able to listen to him more attentively, to hear him with new ears, to rejoice that we are called to holiness and that we have hope in divine life. This is a prophetic message for our people today, a radical message in fact, that conversion and repentance are the pathways to freedom, joy and holiness. How crazy is that?

To impress this, Jesus says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15: 5). In this passage Jesus offers a profound teaching on being intimately connected to God using the imagery of a vine. He is teaching about how important it is for the disciple sent out into the world to stay intimately grafted to the very source of life. When Jesus teaches that ‘whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty,’ we can clearly see the significance of the sacraments in the life of all. Without being immersed in the sacramental life of the Church, we risk slowly deteriorating, in a certain sense becoming dehydrated, from the grace of God. In that context conversion is stifled, growth in holiness is stunted, and we no longer feel the ‘need’ for God.

This brings me to consider the gift of the sacraments, and particularly the Eucharist, and how it is that the Eucharist is the wellspring for sustaining us as pilgrims in the world, forming us as humble and bold disciples, bringing about continual conversion and transformation in our minds and hearts. In a sermon on the Ascension, St. Leo the Great writes: “Our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high.”

We live as pilgrims in this world, and as such, we need to be sustained for the journey. St. Gregory reminds us that Christ’s “visible presence has passed into the sacraments” and by the regular reception of the sacraments, we too encounter Christ in the most profound way.

Not surprising, data points that keep screaming out to us in the past several years are the fact that Catholics are not approaching the sacraments in the numbers they used to; that an alarming number of Catholics no longer believe in the real, true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Why, we might wonder? One answer is that sadly their own credo, their own ‘I believe’ has been eroded. That core belief has grown cold. But it does not have to stay that way! We too can exclaim like the father seeking a miracle for his son, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Our call is to ask the Lord unceasingly to strengthen our belief, to be renewed in our faith, to enflame within our own hearts a constant desire to be transformed by the Eucharist, and to joyfully share that gift with others.

Reflection Questions

  1. What does it mean that we are pilgrims in this life? How do you experience life as a pilgrimage?
  2. How have you experienced the graces of the sacraments in your life?
  3. How can you stay “grafted” on the vine of Jesus Christ as your source of life?


For additional reading, please see Sacramentum Caritatis (the sacrament of love) an exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 on the Eucharist. In paragraph 77 he writes:

“Eucharistic spirituality is not just participation in Mass and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It embraces the whole of life." (216) This observation is particularly insightful, given our situation today. It must be acknowledged that one of the most serious effects of secularization is that it has relegated the Christian faith to the margins of life as if it were irrelevant to everyday affairs. The futility of this way of living – "as if God did not exist" – is now evident to everyone. Today there is a need to rediscover that Jesus Christ is not just a private conviction or an abstract idea, but a real person, whose becoming part of human history is capable of renewing the life of every man and woman. Hence the Eucharist, as the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, must be translated into spirituality, into a life lived "according to the Spirit" (Rom 8:4ff.; cf. Gal 5:16, 25). It is significant that Saint Paul, in the passage of the Letter to the Romans where he invites his hearers to offer the new spiritual worship, also speaks of the need for a change in their way of living and thinking: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (12:2). An integral part of the eucharistic form of the Christian life is a new way of thinking, "so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14).


How Does Belief Move Me to Give Witness?


Credo:How does belief move me to give witness?

Disciples of Jesus are called to be courageous, humble, truthful, compassionate, and merciful. Authentic witness must emerge from credo, an unshakable confidence that moves us to live as active members in the world yet not of the world.

Yet our courage and boldness are rooted not in the false understanding of our own influence or the strength of our voice, but rather in the recognition of God’s grace at work through us, we who are his humble servants and instruments. So it is not a matter of ‘overwhelming’ others but rather a powerful witness comes by way of steadfast, humble, compassionate adherence to what has been Revealed and handed down to us. “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4: 5)

And so authentic witness is not about ‘volume’ or ‘influence.’ I am reminded of an experience I would occasionally have while living in Rome. It was not uncommon to be in line and hear an American at the front trying to ask for something or explain something in English. When the Italian worker could not understand, the American would repeat a second time, only in a really loud voice, hoping that perhaps the volume would help them understand. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Volume doesn’t help understanding. Holy witness does. Witness is about the steady, truthful, loving, and courageous living of the Gospel, dying to ourselves and our passions, our sinfulness, our control, our pride, and living anew in Christ.

In his first encyclical letter (Lumen Fidei, the Light of Faith) by Pope Francis in 2013, he shared these words: “The word, once accepted, becomes a response, a confession of faith, that spreads to others and invites them to believe” (LF, 37) And he goes on to say: “For transmitting a purely doctrinal content, an idea might suffice or perhaps a book or the repetition of a spoken message. But what is communicated in the church, what is handed down in her living tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the true God, a light that touches us at the core of our being and engages our minds, wills and emotions, opening us to relationships lived in communion” (LF, 40)

And in a moving homily by Origen assigned for the feast of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter, he says: “If passing from unbelief to faith means that we have passed from death to life, we should not be surprised to find that the world hates us. Now is the time for Christians to rejoice, since Scripture says that we should rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering trains us to endure with patience, patient endurance makes us pleasing to God, and being pleasing to God gives us ground for a hope that will not be disappointed. Only let the love of God be poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

The less I believe, the more I put my whole self into the world, into the temporal things of this life to the exclusion of growing in holiness and virtue. Living the credo may make us counter cultural, but we ought never fear. “Do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10: 19). On the contrary, the more I believe, the more deeply the words of Martha can resonate within my heart: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world” and the more fully I can love and adore the Lord in the Eucharist.

Reflection Questions

  1. Who has been an authentic Christian witness in my own life and how did they transform my understanding of the love of Jesus Christ?

  2. What are some ways you witness to the Gospel in your own life?

  3. Describe a “Martha Moment” where you proclaimed or heard a powerful truth about Jesus Christ. How was it received?


For additional reading, please see Sacramentum Caritatis (the sacrament of love) an exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 on the Eucharist. In paragraph 85 he writes:

“The first and fundamental mission that we receive from the sacred mysteries we celebrate is that of bearing witness by our lives. The wonder we experience at the gift God has made to us in Christ gives new impulse to our lives and commits us to becoming witnesses of his love. We become witnesses when, through our actions, words and way of being, Another makes himself present. Witness could be described as the means by which the truth of God's love comes to men and women in history, inviting them to accept freely this radical newness. Through witness, God lays himself open, one might say, to the risk of human freedom. Jesus himself is the faithful and true witness (cf. Rev 1:5; 3:14), the one who came to testify to the truth (cf. Jn 18:37). Today too, the Church does not lack martyrs who offer the supreme witness to God's love. Even if the test of martyrdom is not asked of us, we know that worship pleasing to God demands that we should be inwardly prepared for it. (237) Such worship culminates in the joyful and convincing testimony of a consistent Christian life, wherever the Lord calls us to be his witnesses.


Read the Nicene Creed and pray with each of the “I believe” statements. Are there some faith statements easier for you to believe than others.

What is one concrete thing you can do to encounter, grow or witness to Jesus Christ in what you believe and how you live it? Here are some suggestions.

Encounter: make prayer a regular part of your day, go to adoration, make a commitment to go to Mass

Grow: join a small group, bible study

Witness: change life habits, speak about the faith



Why is Our Understanding of ‘Covenant’ Important?


The Eucharist: Why is Our Understanding of ‘Covenant’ Important?

In the next five reflections, I want to consider some ways in which we can come to a deeper theological and spiritual understanding of the Eucharist itself. In essence, a brief course on the Eucharist. This is important because I want to recall again the reflection by Pope Benedict XVI on the Fathers of church, specifically Origen of Alexandria when he said: We cannot authentically know something or someone without first falling in love, and we cannot authentically love what we don’t know. And so this part of my reflections will help us to know and understand the Eucharist more deeply so that we can love the Lord more personally.

The first reflection, an entry point to consider the gift of the Eucharist, is for us to understand the meaning of ‘Covenant’. Why is it important to understand ‘Covenant’ when we talk about the Eucharist?

The roots of the Eucharist begin with the Covenant that God established with the people of Israel. We live in an age of contracts, which can be agreed upon and dissolved easily. Covenants are not just contracts that can be made and discarded. Covenants establish serious, binding relationships. This has significant historical roots for the people of Israel and for us. Listen to the Book of Exodus. “But the Lord said: ‘I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering.Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them up from that land into a good and spacious land’ (Ex: 3: 7-8). As the Lord leads the people of Israel out of slavery, He establishes a Covenant, a living relationship with the people. He reveals Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the living God offers to the people a relationship that is lived out through the Ten Commandments, presented by Moses as the mediator between God and the people.

Throughout the history of the people of Israel, their identity (how they understand themselves) is rooted in the Covenant. Their lives, their worship, and their actions are all connected to the Covenant. They carry the Ten Commandments (the Covenant) with them in the Ark. Why? As a sign of God’s presence and the source of their identity. And even though they often sin and stray from their fidelity to the Covenant, the prophets are sent to call them back again. Specifically, the prophet Jeremiah signals that a ‘new covenant’ would be established when he says: “See, days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke my covenant, though I was their master. But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31: 31-33).

The new covenant that Jeremiah prophecies is then fulfilled in Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” Through the gift and mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus becomes the New Covenant, specifically as he offers his life on the Cross for our salvation. The self-gift of Jesus on the cross is the means through which Jesus lovingly seals the New Covenant for us. His presence signals something new. His presence among us is now the living, breathing relationship that is given to us, and as a result, the relationship we have with the living God comes directly through Jesus, who is the new and eternal covenant.

Reflection Questions

  1. What difference does it make in your life that God says, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
  1. How can we experience today this reality of “covenant” and live as God’s people?
  1. How do can you grow in this covenantal relationship with God?


For additional reading, please see Sacramentum Caritatis (the sacrament of love) an exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 on the Eucharist. In paragraph 9 he writes:

9. The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32), just before "giving up the Spirit," he utters the words: "it is finished" (Jn 19:30). In the mystery of Christ's obedience unto death, even death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God's freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God's Son (cf. Heb 7:27; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). As I have said elsewhere, "Christ's death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form." (18) In the Paschal Mystery, our deliverance from evil and death has taken place. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus had spoken of the "new and eternal covenant" in the shedding of his blood (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20). This, the ultimate purpose of his mission, was clear from the very beginning of his public life. Indeed, when, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration. (19)


What is the Connection to the Passover?


The Eucharist - "What is the Connection to the Passover?"

When we speak about the Eucharist, a word that often appears is ‘Passover’. And so the question naturally arises in our minds and hearts: what is the connection between the Passover and the Eucharist?

In the Book of Exodus, the people of Israel commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land by means of a celebration, a meal called the Passover. “Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every family must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. You will keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole community of Israel assembled, it will be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They will take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. …But for you the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thereby, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.”

The Passover celebration, the meal, commemorates the astounding works of God for the people of Israel. In celebrating the Passover, they give thanks to God for leading them out of slavery and into freedom, and for establishing their identity as God’s holy people. As for for the Jewish people there is a week-long celebration which includes a number of rituals, but culminates in the Passover meal, the Seder meal. It is normally celebrated in the spring, and the date changes from year to year because it is not based on the Gregorian calendar but on the lunar calendar.

The commemoration of the Passover is then brought to a new level with Jesus. Jesus is the new and eternal covenant (as we saw last week), and is the very presence of God in the midst of the people. With the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, the living God in the flesh pours out His own blood for our salvation. It is no longer the blood of an animal on the doorpost of a house, but the blood of Jesus poured out on the wood of the cross that brings to each of us the gift of salvation.

And so Jesus Himself becomes the new and eternal Passover, the one who saves and rescues us from sin and death. In the Gospel of Matthew we read: “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Matt. 16: 21).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: “The Paschal mystery of Christ’s cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good news that the apostles, and the church following them are to proclaim to the world. God’s saving plan was accomplished ‘once for all’ by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ. (CCC 571)

“When the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ, there is a word that marks her prayer: “Today” - a word echoing the prayer her Lord taught her and the call of the Holy Spirit. This ‘today’ of the living God which man is called to enter is ‘the hour’ of Jesus’ Passover, which reaches across and underlies all history” (CCC 1165)

And so, when we gather for Mass, and especially on Sunday, we can appreciate even more deeply that through the saving action of Jesus, he becomes for us the new passover and we are blessed to be able to enter that mystery, by his invitation, and be renewed by his body and blood, which brings to each of us the gift of new life.

Reflection Questions

  1. Even though we are no longer slaves in Egypt, what are some of the ways we still struggle to live freely as the people of God?
  1. 2 How does Jesus save and rescue still?
  1. 3 How has Jesus made his presence known in your own life?


For additional reading, please see Sacramentum Caritatis (the sacrament of love) an exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 on the Eucharist. In paragraph 10 he writes:

This leads us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It took place within a ritual meal commemorating the foundational event of the people of Israel: their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This ritual meal, which called for the sacrifice of lambs (cf. Ex 12:1-28, 43-51), was a remembrance of the past, but at the same time a prophetic remembrance, the proclamation of a deliverance yet to come. The people had come to realize that their earlier liberation was not definitive, for their history continued to be marked by slavery and sin. The remembrance of their ancient liberation thus expanded to the invocation and expectation of a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation. This is the context in which Jesus introduces the newness of his gift. In the prayer of praise, the Berakah, he does not simply thank the Father for the great events of past history, but also for his own "exaltation." In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, he reveals that he himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father's plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter (cf. 1:18-20). By placing his gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of his death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus' death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind's definitive deliverance from evil.


What Place Does ‘Sacrifice’ Have in the Eucharist?


The Eucharist: What place does ‘Sacrifice’ have in the Eucharist?

Closely connected to the word ‘Passover’ is the word ‘Sacrifice.’ The question here is: what place does ‘sacrifice’ have in the Eucharist, and Why do we call it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Here, the Catechism states: “Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: "This is my body which is given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.” In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." It then goes on to say: “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross” (CCC 1365).

The sacrifice of Jesus has its roots again in the original Covenant with the people of Israel. Offering sacrifices was an essential part of the Covenant, and it contributed to the response of the people to God’s saving action. In the Book of Exodus we read: “Moses …built at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve sacred stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent young men of the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as communion offerings to the Lord, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will hear and do.” Then he took the blood and splashed it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.”

But as part of the unfolding of salvation history, to save humanity from sin, God sends Jesus to fulfill the law and the prophets in such a way that he himself becomes the complete sacrifice, the offering for all eternity, for our redemption. In the mystery of our salvation, we recall that “God so loved the world, that he gave us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might ot perish but might have eternal life” (Jn. 3: 16). This is prefigured in the Book of Genesis with the account of Abraham and Isaac. In the drama of that event, Isaac carries wood for the sacrifice but rather than being the offering, the angel says to Abraham, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one” (Gen. 22: 12).

Thus, the new altar for the sacrifice is the cross of Jesus, and Jesus becomes the eternal sacrifice offered for our sins. From the moment of his incarnation, the mission of Jesus was to be a sacrificial offering in love for us. We see this so powerfully in art. The humble stable at Bethlehem was an altar. And from there his life and ministry pointed directly to the gift of his body for us. Look at these two images. Jesus comes in humility, in the stable, ..and offering. Jesus dies for our salvation, …in humility, …and offering.

The Letter to the Hebrews gives us a good understanding of this when we read: “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice” (Heb. 9: 24-26).

And so when we celebrate Mass, we enter into the most sacred prayer of the one, eternal sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation. He invites us to participate so that we can be transformed, renewed, and enter more deeply into the divine life of God. His sacrifice, then, is a sacrifice of love poured out for us and through which we are saved.

Reflection Questions

  1. What are some connections between the Old Testament practices of sacrifice which we see in the passage of Exodus and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?
  2. What would have motivated Jesus to be the eternal sacrifice to save us from our sins?
  3. How have you experienced sacrifice in your own life for those you love?
  4. How can you participate and respond more fully to the gift of salvation which Jesus won for you?


For additional reading, please see Ecclesia de Eucharistia (the Church from the Eucharist) an encyclical letter written by Pope St. John Paul II in 2003 on the gift of the Eucharist, that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist. He writes:

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord's death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”.This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits.

The Church constantly draws her life from the redeeming sacrifice; she approaches it not only through faith-filled remembrance, but also through a real contact, since this sacrifice is made present ever anew, sacramentally perpetuated, in every community which offers it at the hands of the consecrated minister. The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice”.Saint John Chrysostom put it well: “We always offer the same Lamb, not one today and another tomorrow, but always the same one. For this reason the sacrifice is always only one... Even now we offer that victim who was once offered and who will never be consumed”.

The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it.What is repeated is its memorial celebration, its “commemorative representation” (memorialis demonstratio),17 which makes Christ's one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time. The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic mystery cannot therefore be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary.


How is Jesus ‘Present’ in the Eucharist?


The Eucharist: How is Jesus ‘Present’ in the Eucharist?

When we think about the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we need to appreciate first the way in which God was present to the people of Israel. In the Book of Exodus, we are reminded that the Ten Commandments were placed in the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was considered to carry the presence of the living God: “There I will meet you and there, from above the cover, between the two cherubim on the ark of the covenant, I will tell you all that I command you regarding the Israelites” (Ex. 25: 22) Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not” (Ex. 16: 14). And so for the people of Israel, the presence of God was among them in the ark of the covenant and in the manna that God provided for their nourishment.

In the New Covenant, the presence of the living God is manifest in the person of Jesus. In the Bread of Life discourse Jesus says: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6: 51). And only a few verses later he says: “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever. (Jn. 6: 58). The new covenant, then, is marked by the very presence of the living God in the flesh, and through that flesh we are invited to share in divine life with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Catechism offers a very concise definition for us: “The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.’ In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.’ This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”

The Catechism acknowledges that Jesus is really present in the Church in a variety of ways, but that he is substantially present in the Eucharist, in the bread and the wine. That understanding comes from the teaching and awareness that the simple gifts of bread and wine are substantially changed through the work of the Holy Spirit and the prayers offered at the Mass, and because of that, it is called transubstantiation, that is, something has really changed and become something new, in this case, the real, substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

One of the major challenges for us today is the erosion of belief among our own Catholics in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and an understanding of the real substantial change that occurs in the sacrament, noted above, transubstantiation. In recent surveys by Pew Research Center in 2019, the data showed that only one third of Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, and that the majority believe the bread and wine are only a symbolic presence. While it is certainly discouraging to see that data, it should give us motivation to pray, teach, and evangelize even more about the sacred gift God provides to us in the Body and Blood of his Son, Jesus Christ.

We are blessed at Our Lady of Good Counsel to have a tabernacle that reminds us of all these elements that are connected to ‘covenant’, ‘passover’, ‘and presence’ when we see the tabernacle in the shape of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark held the Ten Commandments, the presence of God, the Covenant. Our tabernacle, in the spirit of the New Covenant, holds the true presence of Jesus in His body, blood, soul and divinity. He is with us!

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you believe about the Eucharist, namely, do you believe Jesus is truly present in His body, blood soul and divinity?
  2. Why is this teaching and truth of the faith so difficult to believe?
  3. How can you grow in awareness and understanding of Jesus as truly present in the Eucharist?


For additional reading, please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.


How is the Eucharist a Prayer of Thanksgiving?


The Eucharist:

How is the Eucharist a prayer of Thanksgiving?

When we describe the nature of faith, we say that faith is our response to all that God has revealed to us. In other words, as God manifests himself to humanity, and as we experience God, the way in which we respond to such a movement is to acknowledge that amazing gift. And when we acknowledge the gift, we make an act of faith.

And so, if faith is a response to what God has revealed, then gratitude and thanksgiving is a core part of that act of faith. As God hastens to us through Jesus, as we are embraced by the love of Jesus, and saved by his death and resurrection, our most fundamental response is: gratitude. There is nothing we can do to match the love of God, but we can express from the deepest part of our nature a gratitude for all that God has given us.

In light of this, when we gather together as God’s redeemed people, as the Mystical Body of Christ, we offer praise and thanksgiving to God for the work of our redemption. That holy work (which is the root word for ‘liturgy’) has the characteristic of thanksgiving. And for that reason, our celebration is called Eucharist.

The Catechism states that “the Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity.” (1359)

It then goes on to say “the Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving."” (1360)

And here I think of our own Blessed Solanus Casey, who would often say that gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature. He wrote a poem that reads: God made me to know Him. O! What a blessed aim! To love Him and serve Him Sure rests in the same.

It’s heaven begun For the grateful on earth. To treasure aright—Highest Heaven, its worth.

And he also famously said, “Thank God ahead of time” which is a blessed acknowledgement of Providence.

And so the Mass itself is a prayer of Thanksgiving. What we do in this sacred action, this sacred prayer, is to offer thanks to God for his generosity to us. It is the Lord who gives to us constantly, over and over again. He gives us his Word. He gives us his healing touch. He gives us the fullness of himself in his very Body and Blood.

Our prayer of thanksgiving is to acknowledge the abundant generosity of God, an awareness that he has loved us first. The Catechism concludes that “the Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him” (1361)

Our thanksgiving to God is unique in that it is a sacred action, a sacred prayer. We do not simply thank God for what has been, but recognize what is given to us eternally.


For additional reading, please see Ecclesia de Eucharistia (the Church from the Eucharist) an encyclical letter written by Pope St. John Paul II in 2003 on the gift of the Eucharist, that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist. He writes:

By the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the Church was born and set out upon the pathways of the world, yet a decisive moment in her taking shape was certainly the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room. In this gift Jesus Christ entrusted to his Church the perennial making present of the paschal mystery.

The thought of this leads us to profound amazement and gratitude. In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous “capacity” which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist. I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic “amazement”. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light”.Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lk 24:31).

Reflection Questions

How do you show others gratitude when they are extraordinarily kind or give you an amazing gift?

What are some of the blessings God has given to you and how do you show gratitude to God for those blessings?

How can you respond in thanksgiving to God for the gifts He has given to you?


This week, make time for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament even if it’s only for ten minutes. Just talk to the Lord. Keep it real and keep it simple. Here’s a prayer to get you started.

I adore You, Bread from Heaven.

I adore You, Bread of Angels. I adore You, My Jesus,

truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.

(Pause for silent adoration.)

Speak into the depths of my heart,

The love you have for me.

Jesus, I adore You.


How Should I Prepare and Participate in the Eucharist?


The celebration of the Eucharist: How should I prepare and participate in the Eucharist?

With a deeper knowledge and love for the Eucharist (who it is, what it is), in the next five reflections I want to consider how we prepare for and enter intentionally into the celebration the Eucharist so that we can participate fully and be aware of the incredible grace that is poured into our minds and hearts.

At the Second Vatican Council, a document was written that speaks of the beauty, depth and richness of the Sacred Liturgy and the Eucharist. The name of the document is Sacrosanctum Concilium, and it is the Decree on the Sacred Liturgy. In that document, the Council Fathers remind us that the Liturgy “is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows.” And further, “the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful and sets them aflame with Christ’s insistent love.” (10)

Think about this amazing fact: You and I are invited to enter an eternal mystery each time we participate in the Eucharist. It is not an ordinary event or a casual social activity. At Mass we enter an eternal mystery. We are fully immersed in it! We hear the Word of God proclaimed, allow that Word to permeate our hearts and transform our minds, we sing praise, and we encounter the gift of Jesus as He gives Himself to us in his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In order to joyfully enter that mystery, we have to be active participants. The document I just mentioned above goes on to say: “The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent participants. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. (48)

One of the key dispositions or attitudes for us here is to commit ourselves so that we intentionally prepare for the liturgy. We don’t want to just float aimlessly through the liturgy or be tempted to think only about “what I’m going to get out of it.” No, we should make every effort to be fully present in our minds, soul, and body.

Here I think about how people really prepare themselves to watch a sporting event. Before the game, they want to know who will be playing, what the starting line up will be, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the players, what will the game plan be like? And even on the day of the game, there are a variety of pre-game festivities, all with the purpose of preparing everyone to enter fully into the experience of the game and to create a ‘hype’ so that everyone is ready. The same is true for theater productions, concerts, and any entertainment event.

And so if we prepare in such a way for secular events, events that have no consequence on our eternal salvation, how much more should we prepare ourselves for the sacred liturgy? As recently as 2004, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments presented the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum and stated: “Thus the participation of the faithful too in the Eucharist and in the other celebrations of the Church’s rites cannot be equated with mere presence, and still less with a passive one, but is rather to be regarded as a true exercise of faith and of the baptismal dignity” (37). What are some practical things to do so that your participation is full, active, and intentional? To pray with the readings in advance. To be aware if there is a special feast or solemnity. To bring an active and intentional mind and heart to Mass so that we can fully participate. To make a point to be early so that we are not distracted or distracting others as the liturgy begins. To be intentional about what we are doing as offering our praise and worship to the living God, not by ourselves, but in a communal, joyful, and sacred prayer. These are practical ways we can enter fully, actively, and intentionally into each sacramental encounter with the Lord.


Imagine what a congregation would look like if they were fully active and participating in the responses, songs, and prayers at Mass.

What actions would they have that are different from my own at Mass?

How do I currently prepare myself for the Sunday Liturgy and the eternal mystery of the Mass?

What are some practical ways I can better prepare for Mass to fully participate in it?


For additional reading, please see Sacramentum Caritatis (the sacrament of love) an exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 on the Eucharist. In paragraph 52 he writes:

The Second Vatican Council rightly emphasized the active, full and fruitful participation of the entire People of God in the eucharistic celebration (155). Certainly, the renewal carried out in these past decades has made considerable progress towards fulfilling the wishes of the Council Fathers. Yet we must not overlook the fact that some misunderstanding has occasionally arisen concerning the precise meaning of this participation. It should be made clear that the word "participation" does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life. The conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium encouraged the faithful to take part in the eucharistic liturgy not "as strangers or silent spectators," but as participants "in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, actively and devoutly" (156). This exhortation has lost none of its force. The Council went on to say that the faithful "should be instructed by God's word, and nourished at the table of the Lord's Body. They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to make an offering of themselves. Through Christ, the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and each other" (157).


Why is the Eucharist a ‘Communal’ Prayer and not a ‘Private’ Prayer?


The celebration of the Eucharist: Why is the Eucharist a ‘communal’ prayer and not a ‘private’ prayer?

As disciples of Christ, we follow the exhortation of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, We are called to make our lives a living prayer, which means that all of our thoughts, words and actions should be intentional and rooted in an awareness of God’s goodness. And as we pray, that vibrant dialogue of love with God is done in a variety of contexts, and the two most common are private prayer and communal prayer.

We move between moments when we pray privately and moments when we pray and act in common, as a family, with one heart and voice. That is what makes the common liturgy we celebrate so unique and wonderful. The Mass is and should be deeply personal but not private. But what does that mean?

In the Mass we all encounter the living God in a deeply personal way, and not just intellectually. So each gesture (kneeling, standing, genuflecting, sign of the cross, etc.) has a meaning and we should be conscious of what we are doing, not just acting unintentionally. Each response is also filled with meaning, and we respond in the Mass and other sacraments with ‘one voice’. Our verbal responses, spoken and sung, should be done in communion with those around us, at the same pace, and with the same intention.

And even though in the context of the we have a personal encounter with the Lord, the Mass is not ‘my’ prayer in the sense that I can make my own responses, do my own postures or gestures, or have a different cadence in my responses. There may be a desire or temptation to keep my own pace with the responses or take on a posture that I prefer during Mass, but the communal prayer of the Mass brings us into a ‘common’ voice, a ‘common’ movement and a ‘common’ praise, and so it is distinct from my personal prayer time where I can be spontaneous or move in a way that suits me. There is a beautiful rhythm to the common celebration of every liturgy and Mass. We say ‘common’ because the Mass is a prayer that brings each of us into ‘communion’ with God and one another.

The beauty of the liturgy is that we all move through the prayer together, as one. For those who are not Catholic, it can almost seem too rigid or programmed at times, leaving no room for the Holy Spirit or spontaneity.

And I’ve heard the criticism and also the jokes that Catholics stand, sit, and kneel more than most people do during a workout at the local gym. But even for Catholics, when we are not intentional and fully participating, it can also become what I call ‘static’. That is why the previous reflection on what it means to participate fully is important as a foundation. We need to be fully aware, intentional, and joyful about all of our prayer, and especially when we enter a ‘common’ prayer like the Mass.

As we enter any liturgy, but especially the Mass, we need to be aware and intentional that it is a ‘communal prayer’ and that our responses and our postures move together as one, as prescribed by the Church. One of the blessings to the ‘common’ dimension of our prayer at Mass is that we can sense that we are not alone, that we are surrounded by a vibrant, praying community, and even more, the communion of saints who surround us. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. (Heb. 12: 1-2)

Each form of prayer has its own depth and richness, its own dignity and proper place in our life as disciples, but the Mass as a common prayer draws us into the mystery of Divine life through shared prayers, gestures, and songs that rise up to God as a unified, family prayer.

1. How do the postures connect to the eternal mystery unfolding in each moment of the Mass?

2. In what ways do I engage in the Mass as a communal prayer, unifying my heart and mind with the congregation, Church, andCommunion of Saints ?

3. In what moments of the Mass can I grow in understanding and awareness of the communal
dimension of prayer?

For additional reading, please see Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council. In

paragraphs 26 and 27 the Council Fathers write:

Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops
Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their differing rank, office, and actual participation.

It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private.

This applies with special force to the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments, even though every Mass has of itself a public and social nature.


Is the Mass (Eucharist) Rooted in Scripture?


The celebration of the Eucharist: Is the Mass (Eucharist) rooted in Scripture?

For those who were born into a Catholic household, often called ‘cradle Catholics’ the scriptural roots of the Mass can often be overlooked. Since we grow up with the Mass, the words, acclamations, and responses are all very familiar and we might not ask or explore the richness of the Mass as a ‘biblical prayer.’ This first struck me when I attended a public high school and many of my friends who were not Catholic questioned whether our worship was really rooted in Scripture or if it was something we just made up. So began a new chapter of my own journey of faith as I explored this and asked the simple question: how biblical is the Mass? And to my delight, the whole Mass from start to finish is really a biblical prayer.

A theologian who has presented the biblical roots of the Mass exceptionally well is Fr. Jeremy Driscoll. He is a Dominican priest and his book, What Happens at Mass, is an excellent resource that I’m certain will move your mind and heart and allow you to pray the Mass more fully and joyfully. I recommend that you purchase it and read it through prayerfully. Without trying to go through the book point by point, I will offer some general observations about the richness of the Mass as a prayer that leads us through the bible.

When Mass begins, each part of what we call the ‘Introductory Rites’ come from the Bible. The entrance antiphon, the sign of the cross, the greeting, the penitential rite and Gloria, are all taken directly from the Old and New Testament. The sign of the Cross comes from the mandate of Jesus to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt.28: 19). The penitential rite in particular echoes Psalm 86 and Isaiah 33, but it is also connected to Luke 18 and the tax collector who prayed: “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” The penitential rite is a beautiful moment to recognize the ongoing conversion and the hope to which we are all called. After the opening prayer, the ‘Liturgy of the Word’ draws us all to listen carefully to the proclamation of readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and a Gospel passage. This is exactly what the ancient Christian communities did when they gathered in prayer. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

The ‘Liturgy of the Eucharist’ continues the biblical reflection by inviting us all to sing Holy, Holy, Holy, the angelic song in Revelation, chapter 4. Following the Eucharistic Prayer, the whole community is invited to join in one voice in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, the Our Father. Before the community approaches the altar to receive Communion, the priest invites the congregation to offer each other the sign of peace, echoing the consoling words of Jesus after the resurrection when he said to the disciples: “Peace be with you” (Lk. 24: 36) And as the priest raises the consecrated host, he says the words of John the Baptist, “Behold the lamb of God” and the people respond with the words of the Centurion, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”

With great joy in our hearts, we all receive the Eucharist, moving together in procession, a common movement of a community through the Old and New Testaments. As the Mass concludes, we are sent forth to proclaim and give witness as Jesus has commanded. And so really, from start to finish, the prayer of the Mass is a beautiful biblical prayer that roots us in what God has revealed and the incredible gift that we receive in the Eucharist. Praying the Mass with this awareness deepens our appreciation of the Word, but also reminds us that our prayer is not just biblical during the ‘Liturgy of the Word’, but throughout the whole Mass.

What difference does it make to understand and know the connections of Scripture to life?

What role does Scripture play in my life? How often do I read or reflect on it?

In the Mass, how often am I aware of the moments which directly connect to Scripture?

How can I grow in and better understand the rich connection of Liturgy and Scripture?

For additional reading, please see Verbum Domini (the Word of the Lord) a post-synodal apostolic exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 on the centrality of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church. In paragraph 52 he writes:

In considering the Church as “the home of the word”, attention must first be given to the sacred liturgy, for the liturgy is the privileged setting in which God speaks to us in the midst of our lives; he speaks today to his people, who hear and respond. Every liturgical action is by its very nature steeped in sacred Scripture. In the words of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, “sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. From it are taken the readings, which are explained in the homily and the psalms that are sung. From Scripture the petitions, prayers and liturgical hymns receive their inspiration and substance. From Scripture the liturgical actions and signs draw their meaning”.

To understand the word of God, then, we need to appreciate and experience the essential meaning and value of the liturgical action. A faith-filled understanding of sacred Scripture must always refer back to the liturgy, in which the word of God is celebrated as a timely and living word.


Do I Have to Attend Mass on Sunday?


The Celebration of the Eucharist: Do I have to attend Mass on Sunday?

It might seem unnecessary to address this question, but in light of the current data we have on the percentage of those who believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, I think it’s essential to reflect on why the answer to the question is a profound YES, and not just a tepid ‘yes’ or an occasional ‘yes’.

In 1998, Pope St. John Paul II already recognized the erosion of the commitment to the Sunday obligation among Catholics, and so he wrote an inspiring apostolic letter called Dies Domini, on keeping the Lord’s Day holy. With this brief reflection, I want to share some of the insights from his letter and let the Holy Father reinvigorate our love for Sunday and our desire to recommit ourselves to prayer and worship on that

The Holy Father begins by reminding us that at the core of our identity as human beings is the gift of creation, that we are created in the image and likeness of God, something not to be overlooked or discarded. As the highest form of creation, we honor and praise God by following His own example of resting from the work of creation. “On the seventh day, God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day.” In that spirit, the Holy Father emphasizes that “All human life, and therefore all human time, must become praise of the Creator and thanksgiving to him” (15). And so it is that Sunday moves us to pause from other worldly attractions and set specific time aside to praise God, to recall the gift of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, and our baptism that shapes our identity and gives us our mission. “In effect, Sunday is the day above all other days which summons Christians to remember the salvation which was given to them in baptism and which has made them new in Christ” (25).

And so the Holy Father refers to the parish as a ‘Eucharistic community’ because “the Eucharist is not only a particularly intense expression of the reality of the Church's life, but also in a sense its ‘fountain-head’” (32). Thus when we gather together, we are all being formed and nourished in a way we would not otherwise be formed, we are being formed as a true ‘Eucharistic community.’

And finally, the Holy Father offers this exhortation for parishes and for families when he says: “The Sunday assembly is the privileged place of unity: it is the setting for the celebration of the sacramentum unitatis which profoundly marks the Church as a people gathered ‘by’ and ‘in’ the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For Christian families, the Sunday assembly is one of the most outstanding expressions of their identity and their ‘ministry’ as ‘domestic churches’, when parents share with their children at the one Table of the word and of the Bread of Life. We do well to recall in this regard that it is first of all the parents who must teach their children to participate in Sunday Mass; they are assisted in this by catechists, who are to see to it that initiation into the Mass is made a part of the formation imparted to the children entrusted to their care, explaining the important reasons behind the obligatory nature of the precept.” And so when we intentionally dismiss or ignore this blessed invitation to participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist on Sunday, we are rejecting the blessing of God and placing ourselves in mortal sin, a sin which alienates us (by our own decision) from the transformative love and mercy of God.

The Holy Father concludes by saying: “It is with this strong conviction of faith, and with awareness of the heritage of human values which the observance of Sunday entails, that Christians today must face the enticements of a culture which has accepted the benefits of rest and free time, but which often uses them frivolously and is at times attracted by morally questionable forms of entertainment. Certainly, Christians are no different from other people in enjoying the weekly day of rest; but at the same time they are keenly aware of the uniqueness and originality of Sunday, the day on which they are called to celebrate their salvation and the salvation of all humanity. Sunday is the day of joy and the day of rest precisely because it is "the Lord's Day", the day of the Risen Lord” (82)


Why would God give a day of rest on the seventh day to man as a part of the design for creation?

How do I typically spend a Sunday, and how do my activities reflect the Lord’s day of rest?

What commitments can I make to better spend a Sunday as a day of joy and a day for rest in the Lord?

For additional reading, please see Ecclesia de Eucharistia (the Church from the Eucharist) an encyclical letter written by Pope St. John Paul II in 2003 on the gift of the Eucharist, that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist. He writes:

The Church is called during her earthly pilgrimage to maintain and promote communion with the Triune God and communion among the faithful. For this purpose she possesses the word and the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, by which she “constantly lives and grows” and in which she expresses her very nature. It is not by chance that the term communion has become one of the names given to this sublime sacrament.

The Eucharist's particular effectiveness in promoting communion is one of the reasons for the importance of Sunday Mass. I have already dwelt on this and on the other reasons which make Sunday Mass fundamental for the life of the Church and of individual believers in my Apostolic Letter on the sanctification of Sunday Dies Domini. There I recalled that the faithful have the obligation to attend Mass, unless they are seriously impeded, and that Pastors have the corresponding duty to see that it is practical and possible for all to fulfill this precept. More recently, in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, in setting forth the pastoral path which the Church must take at the beginning of the third millennium, I drew particular attention to the Sunday Eucharist, emphasizing its effectiveness for building communion. “It is” – I wrote – “the privileged place where communion is ceaselessly proclaimed and nurtured. Precisely through sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord's Day also becomes the Day of the Church, when she can effectively exercise her role as the sacrament of unity”.


How Should I Receive the Eucharist?


12/17/23 - The celebration of the Eucharist: How Should I Receive the Eucharist?

The last reflection in this section considers the way in which we should receive Holy Communion, recognizing again the communal nature of the Liturgy and our own disposition as we enter the sacred mysteries. It can often happen that questions arise regarding the way we receive Holy Communion, especially for parents as they teach their children. So it’s important to know the beautiful theological and spiritual foundations for both our disposition and our actions when receiving Holy Communion. Here, the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have provided helpful guidance for us, so that as individuals and as a community, our reception of Holy Communion can be at all times reverent and joyful.

The guidance from the Bishops highlights first the richness of the procession which initiates the distribution of Holy Communion. The document states: “The Church understands the Communion Procession, in fact every procession in liturgy, as a sign of the pilgrim Church, the body of those who believe in Christ, on their way to the Heavenly Jerusalem. ...When we move in procession, particularly the procession to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion, we are a sign, a symbol of that pilgrim Church "on the way." This liturgical movement is so much more than just a standard line, something we are all used to in stores, markets, and offices. Rather, our movement here is a spiritual movement that reminds us that together, we approach someone, Jesus Christ, and the Heavenly Jerusalem. That should draw our hearts and minds to a special place of reverence, joy, and awe.

“The fact that the Communion Procession is a profoundly religious action tells us something about the way in which we should participate in this procession. We are the Body of Christ, moving forward to receive the Christ who makes us one with himself and with one another. Our procession should move with dignity; our bearing should be that of those who know they have been redeemed by Christ and are coming to receive their God!” This movement, then, places us within a family which moves together, and while each individual receives Holy Communion, the movement is one that is filled with dignity, reverence, joy, and unity.

The guiding document for the way in which we are to celebrate the Liturgy is called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The “General Instruction asks each country's Conference of Bishops to determine the posture to be used for the reception of Communion and the act of reverence to be made by each person as he or she receives Communion. In the United States, the Conference of Bishops has determined that ‘[t]he norm... is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling’ and that a bow is the act of reverence made by those receiving. Those who receive Communion may receive either in the hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not of the person distributing Communion.”

In all cases, the disposition of the one receiving should be marked by a deep faith and belief in who we are receiving, and that we express the appropriate reverence, understanding, and joy when receiving. I mention those words because reverence acknowledges the awe we should have and the respect we should have as we prepare to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The word understanding reminds us that we should be conscious and aware of who we are receiving. And there should also be joy, because joy is a manifestation of faith, a faith that directs our minds and hearts to the glory of God and His immense love and mercy as He offers Himself to us.

What reverence do I have towards the reception of Communion? Even as I stand in line to receive, what is my disposition?
Am I having a conversation with the Lord about receiving Him?

As we end this series of reflections on how we celebrate and receive the Eucharist, reflect on your own belief and experiences with the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Conduct an examination of conscience asking yourself...

Do I prepare to receive the Lord?
Do I keep holy the sabbath?
Do I believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?

Am I aware of any impediments to me receiving the Lord?

If anything is revealed to you during the examination of conscience, make a point to go to Confession. Seek the graces and mercy of God for those areas on your heart where you are most need of God’s forgiveness.

For additional reading, please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

To prepare for the worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.

Also, both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the teaching from the Catechism that “anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion”.

Finally, “since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. But "the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly."


What is The Difference Between Adoration, Exposition, & Benediction?


Eucharistic Adoration: What is the difference between Adoration, Exposition, and Benediction?

Last year I shared my deep conviction that Eucharistic Adoration is an essential element for a parish community to grow in holiness and evangelical charity. If we seek to follow Jesus as his disciples, to be on fire with a desire to witness to Christ in the world, and to heed the Great Commission to make disciples of all the world, then it begins with prayer and in particular a personal encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

In the second part of our series, I reflected on the way in which Jesus is present in the Eucharist, noting that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the simple elements of bread and wine are substantially changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and divinity of Jesus.

And so Jesus is truly present to us in the Eucharist that we celebrate. That real presence of Jesus remains, it does not simply fade away when the celebration of Mass is done. And that is why we reserve the Eucharist in the tabernacle after Mass with great reverence. For Catholics, the Eucharist is not just a symbol that we receive during Mass. The Eucharist is the eternal presence of the living God in our midst.

In order to reserve the Eucharist appropriately, the Church requires that each parish church and chapel have a tabernacle. In our parish, the tabernacle is constructed in the shape of the Ark of the Covenant, which I mentioned in a previous reflection, and which draws our attention to the living God ‘abiding’ with us. In any church or chapel where there is a tabernacle, a sanctuary light (usually a candle in a red cover) is placed nearby to indicate that the Eucharist is being reserved there. In those instances, there should be profound respect for the space and also a gesture, usually a genuflection, that should acknowledge the real presence of Jesus.
The Eucharistic devotion of the Church invites us to spend time with Jesus so that our hearts can be encouraged, exhorted, consoled, and ultimately transformed. But there are a number of terms associated with Eucharistic devotion that are important to know so that we can truly appreciate and be grateful for all that the Lord gives.

And so, what is the difference between adoration, exposition, benediction, and reposition?

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is something we can do in any church or chapel. It is the prayerful disposition on our part, a disposition that says: “I’m intentionally adoring the Lord, worshiping the Lord, giving praise to the Lord.” Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament can happen anytime we place ourselves in the presence of Jesus in a church or chapel where He is reserved in the tabernacle (more on this below). And there is no limit to the hours we can spend with Jesus in prayer! Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, though, is a specific rite of the church when the Blessed Sacrament is brought forth from the tabernacle specifically for adoration. Exposition is a special opportunity of grace through which the church intentionally sets time aside for adoration in a communal way. Exposition requires a priest, deacon, or acolyte to bring the Eucharstic forth, and there must always be someone present, in the spirit of Psalm 130 (my soul looks for the Lord, more than a sentinel waits for the dawn) during the period of exposition. The Church has a clear set of norms for how exposition should be done in order to safeguard the Eucharistic and maintain solemnity. And finally, there is Benediction and reposition. Benediction is the specific act of blessing over the people with the Blessed Sacrament. All blessings are efficacious and fruitful, but to be blessed by Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament has primacy of place among all blessings, and so is reserved for these moments within the rite of exposition. And when the time of exposition has concluded, the priest, deacon, or acolyte ‘repose’ the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. These rites of the church are such a gift, and in order to promote a lively and authentic devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is important to understand these terms that are used so often.

Why is it important to show reverence to God?

How do I reverence God in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
when I enter the church?

What has been my experience with Adoration, Exposition, and

Benediction throughout my life? Has my desire to adore the Lord grown?

For additional reading, please see Ecclesia de Eucharistia (the Church

from the Eucharist) an encyclical letter written by Pope St. John Paul II in 2003 on the gift of the Eucharist, that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist. In paragraph 25 he writes:
The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species.

It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”,48 how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!



Why is Adoration Important?


12/31/23 - Eucharistic Adoration: Why is Adoration Important?

In the last reflection, I introduced some terms that are associated with devotion to the Eucharist, including Adoration, Exposition, Benediction, and Reposition. With this reflection, I want to focus on the richness of Adoration.

Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is one of the primary ways in which we deepen our relationship with the living God and allow the grace of that relationship to transform us. Far from being a self- focussed exercise, we adore the Lord in the spirit of the angels who cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4: 8). During adoration, two basic movements occur: first we gaze upon the living God with awe, wonder, thanksgiving, and praise. And as we do that we also become aware of the loving and merciful gaze of God upon us, his beloved sons and daughters. Second, during adoration we sincerely and authentically open our hearts to the living and share with Him what is pressing on our hearts, what is occupying our thoughts, what is bringing joy, what is bringing anxiety. All of those are authentic movements that deepen the richness of our adoration and of course, deepen our relationship with the Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “it is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own and his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of his love with which he loved us ‘to the the end,’ even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistric presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love: The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.” (1380)

When we set time aside to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, this can take place in any church or chapel. Adoration is a prayerful disposition that is not restricted to those moments when there is

exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. It is a great delight to the Lord when we pause, even for a brief moment, and make our way into a church or chapel and quiet our hearts, acknowledge His presence, and become aware of the sacrament of our salvation. Adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is something to be encouraged, as a means of deepening our relationship with the Lord, deepening our faith, and enriching our charity.

The gift of adoration is that it places our minds and hearts in praise before the presence of the Word, a living Word, a Word that speaks to us heart to heart. In that sense, from the heart of Jesus, ever present in the tabernacle, he speaks a living word to us in our hearts, and thus we have a profound exchange, in what St. John Henry Newman called cor ad cor loquitor, that is, heart speaks to heart. If the Lord were not truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, then we would be simply speaking to ourselves and the tabernacle would simply be a piece of furniture. But as it is, the living God truly present in the Eucharist is the one we adore, the one with whom we speak, the one in which we are called to live. Adoration is, then, an essential part of living a most authentic life of a disciple, because it is an acknowledgment that Jesus is truly present, and it is in His presence that we are called into a deeper diving friendship, a union with the one who has loved us from all eternity.

Who in my life do I share my intimate desires of my heart with?
Why is it important to be vulnerable and reveal these parts of my heart to those I love?
How do I speak heart to heart with God?
Do I share with God the innermost thoughts of my heart?
How do I show God awe, wonder, thanksgiving, and praise?

For additional reading, please see Sacramentum Caritatis (the sacrament of love) an exhortation written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 on the Eucharist. In paragraph 66 he writes

One of the most moving moments of the Synod came when we gathered in Saint Peter's Basilica, together with a great number of the faithful, for eucharistic adoration. In this act of prayer, and not just in words, the assembly of Bishops wanted to point out the intrinsic relationship between eucharistic celebration and eucharistic adoration. A growing appreciation of this significant aspect of the Church's faith has been an important part of our experience in the years following the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council. In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church's supreme act of adoration. Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself. Indeed, "only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another."


Should I Commit to a Specific Hour Each Week for Adoration?


Eucharistic Adoration: Should I commit to a specific hour each week for adoration?

The invitation to adoration is not your average invitation! It’s an invitation to relationship with the Lord. In order to deepen our relationship with the Lord it requires us to be committed to times of prayer, times of being open and docile, and especially that we are quiet and receptive to what the Lord desires to offer. As I mentioned in the last reflection, during those times, we also share with the Lord what is most pressing in our own hearts. Nothing is irrelevant to the Lord or not worth sharing.

The silence of adoration can be both deeply moving and scary at the same time. It’s deeply moving because the connection and encounter when heart speaks to heart as I mentioned above from St. John Henry Newman. It can also be scary because silence is becoming more and more rare. In his book, The Power of Silence (which I highly recommend) Cardinal Sarah notes this: “Our world no longer hears God because it is constantly speaking, at a devastating speed and volume, in order to say nothing. Modern civilization does not know how to be quiet. It holds forth in an unending monologue. Postmodern society rejects the past and looks at the present as a cheap consumer object; it pictures the future in terms of an almost obsessive progress.” And then he adds: “Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer. ...This age detests the things that silence brings us to: encounter, wonder, and kneeling before God.” (Sarah, 56)

In that context, especially with the business of our lives, it’s really important to have what I call an anchor of prayer. By anchor I mean a time that we know is set for us to be with the Lord, quietly and intentionally. Think about what an anchor does. It holds a boat steady in place so that it doesn’t drift away, either downstream or out to sea. To hold it steady so that it is not placed in danger and runs aground. In our spiritual life, the anchor of prayer and adoration is that set time which ‘holds’ us so that we don't drift away aimlessly by the current of our culture. To drift aimlessly without an anchor can feel unnerving, and can erode our sense of purpose, identity, and mission.

In my own family, I recall the commitment that my parents made My parents also provided a profound witness of fidelity, and the invitation of Jesus often passed through my mind as I knew they were praying together in the chapel. They could have changed their hour as they aged, gone at another time, but they would often say, “That’s our hour.” They said it not in a possessive way, but rather in a way that was for them a privilege, an honor, a blessing. For them, it was not about convenience, it was about commitment. They could have prayed at other times (which they did) but they kept that hour together for as long as they could, and what a blessing it was for them and for all of us in the

Setting aside specific times of prayer is good, especially adoration. It is a way to grown in virtue, grow in charity, and ultimately encounter the Lord in a whole range of ways we would otherwise miss.

So let’s consider how we can allow the Lord to move into our life to anchor that relationship and to praise him as we adore him in the Blessed Sacrament.

How much time during the week do I spend in prayer in conversation and relationship with the Lord?

In reflecting on how I spend my time, what are the anchors of my daily life?

How can I make a commitment to anchor my life in Jesus and spend more time with him in adoration?


How is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament Different From Adoration?

Eucharistic Adoration: How is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament different from Adoration?


As we adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we are drawn more deeply into the Divine life of the living God. In my previous reflections I shared the richness of adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed. Adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, praying with Jesus in this beautiful way is a great blessing and we should always see the grace in those times spent with the Lord.

But Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is a distinct rite of the Church, and as a result, I want to offer a brief teaching on that so that we can appreciate the connection and the difference.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is a communal prayer of the Church, and not a private devotion. As such, exposition has a prescribed set of prayers and a structure that is ‘common’ or that is part of the public prayer of the Church. In that way, exposition is not a private devotion but a part of the ritual life of the Church. During Exposition, we adore the Lord in a communal way while praying privately.

During Exposition, the Blessed Sacrament is brought forth for a specific period of adoration. To have extended periods of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as a blessed opportunity for a parish community, but it requires certain conditions, and in order to form the community properly in authentic Eucharistic devotion, it is important to understand when and how the Church permits exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Without an understanding of the nature of Exposition and the norms for its use, practices may develop that have the potential to lead the faithful into error regarding our relationship with the Lord, especially in and through devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. To address this, the primary document that offers guidance is: Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, which is a document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

As a rite of the Church, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is done by a priest, deacon or instituted acolyte. The rite calls for a song to accompany the beginning of the period of exposition, followed by a reading from Sacred Scripture. Silent adoration may follow, or there

may be preaching appropriate to the community and the time. During the period of exposition, there must always be someone present to safeguard the Blessed Sacrament. At no time can the Blessed Sacrament, once exposed, be left alone. The period of exposition normally concludes with Benediction, that is, the act of blessing over the people with the Blessed Sacrament.

Exposition, because it is a rite of the Church, is to be done in accord with the prescribed norms of the Church, as are all the rites. The norms are put in place so that individuals and communities don’t slide unintentionally into practices or customs that can erode or disfigure authentic Eucharistic devotion. One of those unintentional practices or customs is to perceive Exposition as solely a private prayer or devotion, or as something I can have on demand or expect when it is convenient for me, or that anyone can do. Like all the rites, the norms call for exposition to have set times for starting and concluding (unless the bishop gives permission for perpetual exposition). Also, appropriate ministers need to be present for the various movements of exposition, benediction, and reposition. For this reason, tabernacles are not to be left open outside of Mass (or specific periods of exposition). Also, tabernacles, and any place where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, are not to be opened and closed repeatedly throughout the day by those who are not the ordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Again, these norms help safeguard the Eucharist and also are a means to form us so that our Eucharistic devotion is authentic and well ordered.

The sacredness of the Blessed Sacrament requires all of us to be attentive to the norms, eager to safeguard its dignity, and ready to understand the uniqueness of the gift of Exposition. At the same time, the Church reminds us that a lively devotion of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, within the tabernacle, is to be cultivated within each community. To that end, adoration should be encouraged for all members of the parish, so that the community can truly become a ‘Eucharistic Community’, a community whose life, breath, and mission emerges from Jesus, who is Charity itself.

What is the difference between a communal or a private devotion?

How do I participate in communal devotions like exposition?

In my own life how can I safeguard the dignity of the Blessed Sacrament?


What are the Norms for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?


Eucharistic Adoration: What are the Norms for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

With a full appreciation of the beauty and uniqueness of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, what are the norms that the Church presents? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have provided guidance and in this reflection I share what the bishops teach us.

First, as noted above, adoration and even perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a practice that is to be encouraged and cultivated within the life of the parish. It does not require any special permission and is a blessed way to foster Eucharistic devotion. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for select periods of time is also encouraged and simply needs to follow the norms outlined in the document I spoke about in the last are reflection, Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. However, if a religious community or a parish seeks to have what is called perpetual exposition that is, the constant exposition of the Blessed Sacrament normally in a monstrance, then certain requirements need to be in place. What are those requirements?

The norms from the USCCB highlight the importance of the local Ordinary, the Bishop, as the primary person responsible for the regulation of perpetual exposition. They write: “The local Ordinary has the responsibility for the regulation of perpetual exposition. He determines when it is permissible and establishes the regulations to be followed in regard to perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. He normally entrusts the superior or chaplain of religious communities or the local pastor or chaplain, in the case of pious associations, with the responsibility of seeing that the liturgical norms and his regulations are followed.”

Perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is normally reserved to religious communities or what are called ‘pious associations’ of the faithful. These are groups that have at the heart of their mission or charism a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In those instances the bishop can permit perpetual exposition given the strict focus of the community and the commitment to their mission. It is not the norm that a parish community would have perpetual exposition. During the years I was assigned to the seminary, we asked the seminarians to develop a

love for Jesus through adoration and to integrate into their lives the habit of a daily holy hour, but we did not have perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The seminary community has periods of time each day for exposition, one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon. These periods of exposition were for one hour and followed the rites of the Church. Throughout the rest of the day, the seminarians and guests of the seminary would pray in the chapel in adoration before the Lord in the tabernacle. Those hours of prayer were no doubt profound and rich encounters with the Lord, but it was not exposition.

To foster a healthy, authentic devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it’s important appreciate how exposition is a special rite, and how adoration is also a privileged time of encounter with the Lord, shaping our hearts and minds so that we are more eager to serve the Lord and give joyful witness.

Why is it important to follow the guidelines and rites of the church especially as they relate to adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

How can I cultivate a devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?

How can we as a parish community cultivate a devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?


The Eucharist and Evangelical Charity


The Eucharist and Evangelical Charity

In this final reflection, I want to offer some concluding thoughts on the profound link between the gift of the Eucharist and our love for our brothers and sisters manifested in evangelical charity, and so I begin with a passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt. 25: 34-40)

The passage from Matthew comes immediately after the parable of the talents and just prior to the events of his betrayal, passion and death. There is an urgency in the words of Jesus here. The urgency is directed toward those who wish to follow Jesus and enter eternal life, those who are entrusted with the kind of mission and work that has been entrusted to us. A call to be vigilant, to pray and to work tirelessly for the good of others, because we know not the day or hour of the Lord’s coming.

In the context of the teaching, it is clear from the very beginning that Jesus uses the word “I” to connect himself with the ‘hungry’ the ‘thirsty’ the ‘stranger’ the ‘naked’ the ‘ill’ and the one in prison, in general the most vulnerable. The connection is both personal and provocative. Jesus is not saying that for those who desire to enter eternal life they need to be good to the poor because they are poor and need help. Not at all. On the contrary, by repeatedly using the word “I”, Jesus emphatically presents to the disciples his very presence in the marginalized, in those who are vulnerable, in those who hunger for the truth, and in those who need to be accompanied along the path of holiness.

An essential point for us is the recognition that devoted time in adoration, time spent in prayer with Jesus, forms us as disciples. Jesus reminds us of the important balance between contemplation and action. Prayer that does not lead to evangelical charity and an eagerness to help our brothers and sisters in need represents a lifeless exercise, a privatized relationship that does not move the heart outward. On the other hand, outreach that does not emerge from contemplation and prayer runs the risk of being self-focused and rooted in pride.

In 1980, Pope St. John Paul II wrote a letter to bishops on Holy Thursday called Dominicae cenae, and he reflected on the gift of the Eucharist and Charity. He said:

“eucharistic worship constitutes the soul of all Christian life. In fact, Christian life is expressed in the fulfilling of the greatest commandment, that is to say, in the love of God and neighbor, and this love finds its source in the blessed Sacrament, which is commonly called the sacrament of love.” (5)

He then went on to say: “Eucharistic worship is therefore precisely the expression of that love which is the authentic and deepest characteristic of the Christian vocation. This worship springs from love and serves the love to which we are all called in Jesus Christ. A living fruit of this worship is the perfecting of the image of God that we bear within us, an image that corresponds to the one that Christ has revealed in us. As we thus become adorers of the Father "in spirit and truth," we mature in an ever fuller union with Christ, we are ever more united to Him, and-if one may use the expression-we are ever more in harmony with Him.” (5)

The personal encounter with Jesus in and through prayer, and specifically adoration, forms us men and women of virtue and it strengthens our desire for evangelical charity. As a result, our outreach and discipleship needs to be nourished by the grace provided in a deep devotion to the Eucharist. And our devotion to the Eucharist should naturally enflame within our hearts a ready desire to serve, to accompany, and to imitate Jesus Himself, who in laying down his life for us on the altar of the cross, gives us the Eucharist as the model and paradigm of Love itself.

  1. How do I worship God in the Eucharist?

  2. How is the Eucharist the sacrament of love in my own life? Is it my source of strength?

  3. How can I grow in my discipleship and charity through devotion to the Eucharist?

To grow more in my relationship with the Eucharist, what is one practical next step I can take?

  • Am I called to assume a Holy Hour during my week?

  • Am I called to seek more opportunities with the Eucharist?

  • To stop by the church on my way to or from work?

  • Am I called to attend one of our monthly holy hours at the parish?