I write this blog post on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known as the feast of Corpus Christi. This year it falls in the immediate wake of the World Meeting of Families, which occurred recently in Milan. The proximity of these two events invites us to consider the relation between the mystery of the Eucharist and the gift of the family.
What we know about our faith is what we have received from others. This means that we ourselves have a responsibility to hand on to others what we have learned, so that people of every age may come to know the joy that springs from the gift of faith. When it comes to the Eucharist, it is a matter of receiving and handing on what is central to our lives as Catholics.
In the home children receive the faith from their parents, who are handing what they had received from their own parents. When I think of my own upbringing I realize more and more what I owe to my parents. I have studied a lot of theology, and have pondered and prayed about the Eucharist for many years, but the very core of my belief in the Eucharist and my love for this sacrament was forged not in the classroom, but by the teaching and witness of my parents. They went to Mass and, therefore, so did I, with my brother and sisters. This was not a negotiable matter. Mass, we learned, is the special place where we encounter the Lord Jesus in a way that can occur nowhere else. The Mass is the real presence. Bread and wine are truly changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. My parents taught me the duty of reverence before the Blessed Sacrament, suggesting often by their glares when I misbehaved in Church that I just might not live to tell the tale! From them I learned that the Most Holy Eucharist is Jesus Himself. All that came later through study was simply a development of this core received in the family. The transmission of the faith hinges in an undeniable way upon the handing on that takes place in the home. Central to that transmission must be the teaching in the home of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist.
Accepting the truth of the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist will inevitably bring about a change in family life and in society itself. The Eucharistic presence of the Lord is more than a “presence with”, as wondrous and comforting as that might be. It is a “presence to”. It interacts with and engages the other and invites to communion. Jesus alone can transform our world. He can change our families and our society, if we but accept the truth of his real presence in the Eucharist and learn by our encounter with him to be really present in love to one another.