A recent poll found that only about one-third of U.S. Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Sadly, this reflects the growing antipathy toward religion affecting many local churches. For those who have ears to hear, the teaching of Jesus is simple: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). Christ doesn’t mince words. If he is the Son of God, there is no getting around the perennial truth that the Eucharist is his body and blood. Or, as Flannery O’Connor eloquently put it, “If it’s just a symbol, than the hell with it.”
The Eucharist is the source and summit of all Christian life. Every ecclesiastical work and all the other sacraments are directed to it (cf. can. 897 CIC). Christ, who desired to remain with his disciples “until the end of the age” makes himself vulnerable in our world, abiding under the appearance of bread and wine, so that he can enter into the deepest depths of the human soul. Often, he finds a lackluster faith among the recipients, reducing his presence to symbolic imagery. For those who do not have ears to hear, the only remedy to this doctrinal error is an appeal to other senses.
The Church must regain its reverence for this august sacrament, especially in the sacred liturgy. Proper genuflection, bowing, and reverential reception of Holy Communion are all essential. Many Catholics might not understand what they receive. But for those who do, now is the time to robustly promote this great mystery. Otherwise, what’s the point?