We don’t get theological technicalities from Jesus; he speaks plainly, most often in simple stories whose meanings are clear. From that consistent style of his, we can be sure that he had no obscure theology in mind on the night before his death when with bread and wine he made the simple parting gesture of love, in which he said, “Remember me. And don’t ever forget that I’ll be with you always.”
The essence of that gesture, which has become our Eucharist, is undoubtedly presence: Jesus’ desire and his plan to be with us in a unique way.
Friends and lovers can be present to each other not only when they are face to face, body to body. They can be thousands of miles apart and be really present to each other in many ways. The sound of a melody, the remembrance of a shared experience, a card or a letter taken from a drawer, a photograph, are but a few examples of how human beings can be present to each other even though they are physically apart.
We Catholics maintain that there is a personal presence of Jesus in Eucharist – not merely in the transformed bread and wine, but in the entire Eucharistic event.
It seems to me that it is no more useful to dissect and analyze this mystery than to analyze any act of genuine love. Some things are so sacred, so precious, so profoundly personal, that to subject them to microscopic examination is to guarantee that they will not be appreciated. The words “Body and Blood” are, of course, anatomical in their normal usage. But in the context of the Eucharist I understand them to mean simply real – real not in the sense of physicality, but real in the sense of sacrament.
When we do this sacred action together week after week, this fluid action called Eucharist, Jesus is uniquely present. Unseen, yes, but as intentionally and really present to us as he was to his original disciples and apostles, minus the physical, or bodily, elements.
We must content ourselves with that alone and not be distracted by the scrutinizing that goes on in our theological laboratories, which can only do further violence to the uncomplicated plan of Jesus to remain with us, not merely in memory, but in here & now sacramental presence.
I am not aware of Jesus ever asking to be adored, but only to be welcomed and loved in return for his own unconditional love of us. He invites us to follow him with trust and to accept the gifts he offers.
Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ — the remarkable, nearly unbelievable, fact that God, as St. John so graphically put it, has pitched a tent in our midst and made it the dwelling place of Jesus. This is not God up and out above the clouds; nor is this a deus ex machina, a divinity that enters the human situation occasionally, whimsically, to fix things. This is the divine presence in the thicket of humanity, scratched and bruised with us, always present, always giving life and hope and peace in the midst of trouble.
When our Catholic lives are over, and while we still have the presence of mind to reflect on their most precious treasures, I believe that we are going to appreciate as never before what our regular encounter with Jesus through Eucharist has given us. We will understand more clearly than ever before what a source of strength and guiding wisdom it has been for us all along. We will understand with unprecedented gratitude what he meant when he said he would be with us always.
Corpus Christi — Body of Christ – himself — us. How else would he have arranged the journey?