By Fran Lavelle
The Year of the Eucharist was inaugurated in our diocese on the Feast of Christ the King and will be celebrated through the 2022 liturgical year. Our theme, “Stay with us, Lord,” comes from Luke’s Gospel (24:13-49) referred to as the Emmaus story.
In it we hear about two disciples, on their way to Emmaus, talking about the recent events in Jerusalem. Jesus encountered the two on the road and talked with them as they continued their journey though they did not recognize him. As night approached, they urged Jesus to stay with them. While he was at table Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Central to the Emmaus story is the journey of the two disciples. Not just the physical journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, but the journey of faith and belief in the Risen Christ.
There is an old saying attributed to the Sioux Indians, “The longest journey is from your head to your heart.” This is true especially when it comes to matters of faith.
Our ability to believe in what we do not see and what we do not understand takes a lot of trust and faith. Believing in and understanding the Eucharist is one of those things that requires great faith and trust. If you have not considered your disposition at Mass when receiving Communion, I invite you to do so.
A favorite priest friend from Kentucky, would remind his congregants regularly that we need to check ourselves to make certain we are becoming more like that which we receive, that is Jesus. If our answer is no, we need to consider why not. If our answer is yes, we need to ask God for the grace to continue to be transformed by the Eucharist.
To find greater meaning in the devotional aspects of the Year of the Eucharist it is timely to focus on our personal understanding of the Eucharist. No matter how old you may be or how many years you have been a communicant, make this the year you take a deeper dive.
There are many great books written on the subject by many worthy theologians, from the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas to more modern studies like Alexander Schememann’s, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom or Bishop Barron’s most recent book simply titled, Eucharist. The point is to read something that will help you to continue to be transformed by the Eucharist.
Another idea is thinking about how we are present during the Mass. When I was working on my master’s degree, I took a course on the Eucharistic prayers. Prior to that course I had never read them independent of the Mass. We did a combination of exegesis and Lectio Divina of the text. In doing so I became aware of the text in a more comprehensive way and aware of what resonated most with me. It opened a whole new understanding and way of thinking about the Eucharist for me. I remember that year wanting to use my new insights on anyone who would listen. So instead of sighing when the priest began the first Eucharist prayer thinking – dang! this is the long one – I came to appreciate the hope-filled message that each prayer uniquely conveys.
The Year of the Eucharist will take on many different forms of observation. There will be the outward devotions like Eucharistic processions, exposition and adoration, and a diocesan Eucharistic Congress. All of these are exceptionally good expressions of faith and love. But we can also take on small and personal acts that draw us closer to Jesus in the Eucharist.
For example, being aware of how we treat people in the parking lot after Mass. When I lived in Northern Virginia, I was always astounded that we needed the local police to help navigate traffic after Mass. I mean if we ever had the incentive to be kind to one another on the mean streets of Alexandria, Virginia it should have been minutes after several hundred people just received Jesus!
It is fitting that we say, “Stay with us, Lord.” Stay with us beyond the dismissal rite. Stay with us in our cars, at the restaurant during brunch, and as we enter the new week be it at school, work or home. Stay with us, Lord when we are on social media, at sporting events and in the ordinary places we find ourselves each day. Stay with us, Lord and together we can become more like you. Let the Eucharist be the mirror we hold up to see ourselves growing to be more like Jesus.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)