Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blog # 158 Presence

Blog # 158 Presence There is a radical difference in the content of our Catholic faith in what has been referred to as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and what most of our Protestant friends would claim as the content of their faith regarding the bread and wine given to the disciples at the Last Supper as symbols of Christ's presence rather than accept our Catholic term Real Presence. I hope by presenting a few ideas on the notion of presence in general and then as we apply the term presence to Holy Communion and to Jesus in the Sacrifice of the Mass it will help clarify for our Protestant friends and for some Catholics who will not remember it presented in this way for them before what we Catholics actually believe. Here is a scenario I will use as an introduction. A small town had erected a memorial in the center of town in honor and memory of its War Dead. A State Representative was invited to come and give a talk on the occasion of the dedication of the memorial. On the day before the scheduled dedication his mother was killed in an automobile accident. He could have called the Mayor of the town and ask to be excused from being present at the dedication. All of us would have understood his decision. But that was not his only option. He could have faxed the text of his talk to the Mayor and have the Mayor read it for him. His presence among us would have been limited, but real. We would have been given the same thoughts he would have shared with us had his mother not died and he was physically standing before us, but they would have been actually communicated to us at the time of the dedication by someone else than he. Another option would be to tape the talk and send that down to the Mayor by bus in time for us actually to hear him sharing his thoughts with us. This option would have limited his presence merely in the fact the sounds we heard, though actually those of the Representative, would have been spoken by him yesterday rather than at the time of the dedication. Still another option would have been for the Representative to have arranged a telephone hookup with loud-speaking equipment making his actual voice and thoughts really present in the sense of actually being spoken and heard at the dedication ceremony. I imagine he might have gone even a step further and used a picture phone hook-up enabling us both to see and hear HIM actually speaking and sharing his thoughts at the very time we had gathered to listen to him. Though none of these ways actually identify or explain what we believe with regard to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist,they do call our attention to the fact we can recognize in our everyday experience the possibility of more than one meaning and application of the term presence. And in this we are better prepared to receive and respond to the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as one more possible mode of presence. From this we go on to understand and experience in the Eucharistic Presence some relationship to the other modes of presence we have considered but yet because we are considering the presence of Jesus Who is GOD in the Eucharist this presence for us must be mysterious, supernatural, humanly incomprehensible, known by FAITH, and unique. Now let's consider some of the reference points we can discover in both the scenario of the dedication of the war memorial and the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus. First of all the State Representative wanted to be present to the gathering. The desire to be close to someone we love is a God-given trait of love. Right down to our very existence God loves us. Because God loves us God desired us to be, and in God's love for us God desires to be close to us. Secondly the State Representative considered the options he had with regard to relating to the gathering at the memorial. God loves us and is close to us in ways we tend to take for granted and rarely if ever on the part of some relate to our understanding and response to the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Our creation by God is our fundamental relationship with God. God is certainly close to us there. God is close to us in the Bible when we recognize it as the word of God, when we pray, obey the Commandments, experience a second birth entailing a genuine limited sharing in God's divine life, our union with one another as branches on the Vine which is Jesus, in the Church, and other such ways. A most important feature of what we are considering is the fact ALL OF THESE RELATIONSHIPS AND EXPERIENCES ARE MADE REAL ONLY BY THE POWER OF THE GIFT OF FAITH WITHIN US. This is the feature we sometimes are in danger of taking for granted or of overlooking and in that process we lose contact with the essence of the relationship. Since this blog is getting so long and has much to consider I will stop here and continue in Blog # 159. Thank you for being here.

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