By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
GLADSTONE — Jesus came to live among us, and he never really left.
“Jesus Christ is the Eucharist,” Bishop Robert W. Finn said at the first of a two-part lecture Dec. 11 at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish.
“The one sacrament that is Jesus Christ is the Holy Eucharist,” he said to more than 200 people who nearly filled the church.
But it was a special event, even in the midst the hustle and bustle of Christmas, said Marc Cardaronella, director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute that sponsored the Dec. 11 and 18 free lectures at St. Andrew.
“We have the primary teacher in the diocese talking about the ultimate sacrament,” he said.
Bishop Finn told the crowd that all the sacraments are, of course, “very important.”
“But the Eucharist is the sacrament of sacraments,” he said. “What God has given us in the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ.
He noted the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium which taught that the Eucharistic sacrifice at Mass is the “source and summit of Christian life”
“Christ is present in the Word of God. Christ is present in our neighbor and how we serve him,” Bishop Finn said.
“But the Eucharist is his substantial presence. Christ determined he would stay with us, and that he would give himself to us to be consumed,” he said.
“That’s quite extraordinary,” Bishop Finn said. “That is a God who wants to touch us, and for us to touch him.”
It also underlines the love of God so much that He still wishes to be with us and to bring us into the glory of salvation.
“God could have saved us in many different ways,” Bishop Finn said. “The way he did save us was sending his Son among us. He took our flesh. He wanted to be with us.”
By taking Jesus in the Eucharist into our very being, we are letting God’s love in, Bishop Finn said.
“Really, we are consumed by God,” he said. “God subsumes us and takes us inside himself. This is a real presence that is mean to be a moment in which we become truly one with God.”
But that makes no sense to the human mind, he said. Bishop Finn even cited the reaction of the crowd, noted in John’s Gospel, who turned away when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
“It was so radical,” Bishop Finn said. “But Jesus doesn’t pull back. He doesn’t change the teaching because it was hard to accept.”
And neither should the Roman Catholic Church, “the only religion that teaches about the real presence of Jesus.”
“This is the mystery of faith,” Bishop Finn said.
“We encounter Christ, but he is not dead. He is the living Christ. He is the Christ of the moment of his dying and rising. He is the Christ at the moment of his complete sacrifice for us,” he said.
“What happens at the altar is a sacrifice that is a dynamic act of love so powerful it is like a nuclear explosion, with the power to reach out and transform all that it touches,” Bishop Finn said. “Jesus rising and dying was so powerful that he achieved salvation for us once and for all.”
And that sacrifice is repeated in a very real way at every Mass, he said.
“God has invited us to continue to participate in the sacrifice of Mass,” Bishop Finn said. “We bring to the Mass our selves, our prayers, our works, our sufferings. They become part of the sacrifice.”
By participating, we draw closer to Christ, he said.
“The more we learn about him, the more we fall in love with the Lord, Jesus Christ,” Bishop Finn said.