Back when I was a kid, mealtime had a special significance in my family. It was a time to gather around our table to share the news of our day — and some good food. Even when I grew older, gathering as a family around our dinner table to share a meal was not only tradition, it was almost sacred. You wouldn’t dare take your plate to another room to watch TV because there would be serious consequences. Gathering at the dinner table was the focal point of our day — a very special place and occasion for familial communion and fellowship.
The same is true of the importance of gathering around the table of the Eucharist at Mass, which is for us Catholics a very special time to come together as a faith community to share something truly extraordinary — food from heaven. “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)
Jesus, when he ascended into heaven, knew he had to go — but he also knew that he had to stay — so he left for us the magnificent gift of his body and blood, the Eucharist. We cannot live without the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the reason our parishes exist. The Church is pretty old — more than 2,000 years old. Everything comes and goes — including people and popes — but in the history of the Church, the only constant throughout the ages is the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, the very presence of Christ.
We, as Catholics, believe the Eucharist is not a representation, not a symbol of Christ. We believe the Eucharist is Christ. That is why we celebrate the mystery of the Eucharist every day, throughout the day, around the world. That is why the Church sets aside a very special day in June to celebrate the Eucharist. We have special days to remember our mothers and fathers, so the Church celebrates and remembers this most sacred mystery every year on the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
The body and blood of Christ are food for our journey through this life to the next. Jesus said those who eat my flesh and drink my blood will live forever. (Jn 6:54) And when we eat his body and drink his blood, he lives in us and we live in him, and enter into communion with him. (Jn 6:56)
Somehow, many of our families have lost that precious family time around the dinner table. We let the modern daily “busyness” of our lives get in the way. We must work to ensure that our families gather around the dinner table at home and around the altar at church, remembering always how important it is to fix our eyes on the Eucharist. St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you. When you look at the sacred host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.”
Whether at home or at our parish, all of us need to be at the table, especially at the table of the Lord from which we receive the bread of eternal life.
Bishop's column was featured in the September-October edition of Northeast Ohio Catholic magazine. Click HERE to read the entire digital edition.