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“This is my body … this is my blood of the new Covenant”

National Eucharistic Revival Program
Portrait of Bishop Joseph N Perry of Chicago
The gospel passage of St. Luke, chapter 22,1 takes us back to an intimate moment between Jesus and his disciples gathered for the Jewish Passover, that same night of his arrest and arraignment before the authorities. Unlike other events recorded in the gospels, this scene provides the Church with an unavoidable sign of Jesus’ sacrifice that he begged us to frequent in memory of Him and what he was about to undergo for the salvation of the human race. The scene is profoundly human and full of pathos. The disciples must have been transfixed in wide-eyed wonder enfolded as they were within the heaviness of the room’s atmosphere that evening. Conversation was subdued, for by now, the apostles understood that this was no ordinary meal given some extra gestures added to conventional Jewish Passover.
As the ritual drew to a close Jesus proceeded to pick up unyeasted bread, blessed it and divided it, then distributed to them saying, “This is my body to be given or you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then at the very end he raised an extra cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them in a similar way with the words,  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be shed for you.”
Then, Jesus began to speak of many things: consolation for the apostles, his deep desire that they have peace in their hearts come what may and that they should hold on to one another with their love in the same way he has loved them. He also prayed out loud to his Father to protect them from the Evil One because the world knows not Him nor his Father in heaven.
Jesus intended this as a solemn occasion with his closest friends intimately linked to his redemptive sacrifice already unfolding before their very eyes – his own Passover as it were.
This  “do this in memory of me” quickly became the central act of worship for Catholics and others carrying forth the priesthood of Jesus Christ these twenty centuries and beyond. 
We are a society that looks for scientific verification about a lot of things, but clearly, something takes place on that altar that only God can do. There aren’t any human words really to describe what is happening here. Jesus supplied its meaning, infused ordinary bread and wine with the substance of his life and spirit and given to us as miraculous gift. We never could have imagined such ourselves. From the Lord’s last supper we are charged with something of inestimable value to our faith tradition.
Starting June 21 (2022) the Catholic bishops of the United States launched a three year program of Eucharistic Revival for the entire country, to lead the faithful along the very transformation of their lives through the power of this gift given us by Jesus himself. Listening to people’s description of their faith in this sacrament, observing lessening numbers of those attending Mass on Sunday, given the confusions, moral, social and political that grip our modern lives, we have picked up indications that a Eucharistic renewal is called for, as the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life as underscored by the Second Vatican Council.2   We all need healing and proper focus, yet many are separated from the very source of our strength – Jesus Christ.
The first of the three year program will be spent in the various dioceses around the country from now till June 2023. Eucharistic missionaries stand ready to come and assist dioceses online and in-person to teach about Christ and the Real Presence. Dioceses will offer celebratory and instructional events to promote and inspire a vital understanding of the Eucharist.
The second year till July 2024 will focus on parish revival and concluding with a National Eucharistic Congress to take place in Indianapolis (July 17-21, 2024).
There is nothing more essential to our identity as Catholic Christians than the celebration of the mystery of the Lord’s body and blood. This Revival calls upon the laity, families, religious orders, priests to volunteer their time, talents and prayers in pursuit of the grassroots renewal our society and world so desperately needs. Eucharistic seminars, Corpus Christi processions, adoration scheduling, special masses and catechesis will feature these two years moving up to the national congress.
The Lord is present to us in many different ways. We encounter Him at prayer, in the people we sit next to in the pews and labor with amidst the many activities and ministries of the Church, in the Scriptures we hear each Sunday and days in between. But it is in the celebration of Mass that we most fully encounter who we are. It is here where we meet our Savior Jesus and derive from his mysteries all that we need to carry on in memory of him.
I am reminded of the words of a great ancient Father of the Church, John Chrysostom, who said, and I quote:  “When the priest gives you Eucharistic bread do not think that the action is his. The hand stretched out to you is Christ’s; just as when the priest baptizes it is not he who in reality baptizes but God….”
In a fractured world like ours the Holy Eucharist continues to bear the challenge of bringing us closer together in unity with the God we worship and with each other. We receive Holy Communion together as a people anointed by God to carry on his work of healing all manner of division and fear and hesitancy found among us while spreading the story of Jesus and his saving words and actions.
It is Christ who performs the sacraments. The priest is an instrument through whom God works. Nonetheless, the priest is called to holiness of life that is representative of the words he speaks and the sacred things he holds in his hands. And so are the faithful in the pews who are called to a holiness of life representative of the words they speak and the deeds they issue forth in faith and the holy sacrament they receive.
None of this is of our doing or of our imagination. It is the will of Christ Jesus that he would share his very life with us until his return to take us with himself. None of this is pageantry or make-believe any more than what happened that Good Friday was make believe. And what happened that day outside the walls of Jerusalem on Golgotha was by no means some artificial skit. We don’t pretend here with something that happened centuries ago. None of the seven sacraments are plays performed on a stage. The Savior Jesus is truly present in the action of each sacrament overwhelming us with God’s grace. Thus, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, when it comes to the celebration of the Eucharist what we hold in our hands and what we consume together via the digestible forms of bread and wine consecrated is the body and blood, soul and divinity of the One we dub Savior of the human race, Jesus Christ.3 
You have heard that saying that you should always pay close attention to the words of dying man. Why is that? Because, the last words of a dying man are among the most honest words he may well have ever spoken. So, none of this by way of Eucharistic action is taken lightly. It always calls for our profound reverence and the Church’s perpetual memorial.
St. John Vianney, the saintly patron of parish priests tells us:  “The Eucharist is the most wonderful gift Christ has given us. If there was something more wonderful than this, He would have given it to us.” 4 
The story is told of Father Vianney, parish priest of Ars, who each day heard confessions in his little church for hours on end: One day he happened upon an elder gent sitting in the pew silently looking ahead at the sanctuary. John Vianney thought perhaps the elder gent was trying to muster enough courage to confess his sins, so he asked the gent why he was just sitting there day after day, never going to confession but staring straight ahead. And the elder gent said simply,  "Oh, I just look at Him and He looks at me and that’s all that matters!”
We understand the Lord’s Eucharist gives nourishment to the tasks of the Christian life, strengthens disciples and keeps the Church focused on her Lord. Adoration of the Eucharist flows out of the Mass, such intimate prayer times with the Lord are not possible unless first we come together to remember His sacrifice commemorated in the Mass, most especially the Sunday worship assembly.
Eucharistic Revival is an opportunity to refresh our faith, our practice, and our devotion to the Lord who chooses to maintain his presence among us through his Eucharist:  “I am the bread of life come down from heaven for you to eat … unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you. For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink.” 5
We don’t incense and worship and genuflect before a mere cracker. The notion of “Real Presence” points directly to the abiding presence of Jesus in the consecrated elements, body, blood, soul and divinity of the Savior Jesus Christ for our spiritual sustenance, for the preserve of the Church, enlivening the unity of the faithful unto the kingdom we await with the Lord’s return for us.
Words heard sometimes as attempts to explain the Eucharist, as a  “symbol” or  “symbolic” or  “represents” or  “stands for”. Words such as these come nowhere near adequately explaining what the Eucharist is. Eucharist can only be encountered by believers with faith, hope, surrender and love. Only in these postures you meet up with the Lord Jesus, his body and blood, soul and divinity, as the Catechism explains.
We desire a more fruitful mystical connection we have with the Lord in his sacrament. We desire that this sacrament be better understood. In Catholic piety, the holy Eucharist prepares us for meeting the Lord face-to-face. We experience sadness when relatives or friends, spouses or acquaintances lack the opportunity for the Eucharist due to lack of understanding of this sacrament or a falling out of practice with the faith, or the fact that they may come from another Christian tradition that does not have the priesthood and therefore lack the ability to affect the sacrament.
Eucharist is a profound aide to the Christian life. And Christians who do not have this gift are shortchanged, unfortunately, by reason of history, ignorance, lack of opportunity, lack of proper instruction, lack of faith. Over the many centuries, people have risked their lives in order to receive Holy Communion and many have died in the attempt.
Like the elder gent discovered by Father St. John Vianney in the parish Church at Ars, I bid you, look at Him while He looks at you and offer the Lord all that you are and have. The Lord in turn hungers for our praise of Him, our love of Him, our hope in Him. Like the elder gent gazing at the tabernacle in front of him may you too discover God’s affection for you such that your gaze upon the Lord and your reception of Him as well as your adoration of Him may well up within you a deeper affection for Jesus your Lord and Savior. May you discover in Him the joys of discipleship and like that elder gent come to know the Lord who holds you as the apple his eye!
2022 Bishop Joseph N Perry 


1. Matthew 26, 26-29; Mk 14, 22-25

2. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1324)

3. Catechism (CCC 1376) Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread it has always been the conviction of the Church that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of his blood… In the Eucharist, our Lord is present “truly, really, substantially,” CCC 1374 … We call the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist the “Real Presence” and refer to the change of the bread and wine into his body and blood as ‘transubstantiation’ to explain the miracle of the altar.

4. St. John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) was canonized a saint in 1925.  He lived at the time of the French Revolution that wreaked havoc on the Church as well as the nation. Priests were forbidden to teach or preach. Many were growing up without education in the faith. Devastation, spiritually and materially and politically was everywhere. Vianney was sent to a small village in rural France called Ars where he met up with at best the indifference of the people. Eager to draw the villages back to God and Christian living, he sat in the confessional absolving the sins of many locally and beyond who came to the village as his reputation grew. He prayed and fasted for his people. It is reported that he spent an average of ten hours a day in the confessional during the winter and almost fifteen hours every day during the summer. Father Vianney led an austere life, was tremendously generous with people, and slept little. People were calling him a saint long before he died.

5. John 6

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