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The Real Presence and Mary
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
There is so much confusion in professedly catholic circles about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that someone had better make things clear. We begin to understand what the real presence means once we realize that the Holy Eucharist began in the womb of Mary the moment she told the angel, be done to me according to your word, God became man and began to dwell among us. God was in the world He made from the moment of creation He had to be. Otherwise the world He created out of nothing would have lapsed into the nothingness from which it came.
But the Creator began to be present as man at the moment of the Incarnation. He became man, God will never cease to be Incarnate. The Incarnation began in the womb of Mary and will continue unto all the reaches of eternity.
Why did God become man? God became man first of all that He might be able to suffer and die on the cross. He assumed a human body and soul that could be separated by death, which occurred on Calvary. But as man, He also assumed a human will by which He could choose to die for our salvation. His choosing to die for us on the cross was the sacrifice He offered for our redemption.
But, and this is the most important adversative in our language. But God became man not only to die for us on Calvary. He became man to live with us and among us as man in the Holy Eucharist. On Holy Thursday night, Jesus changed bread and wine into His own living body and blood. At the same Last Supper He told his apostles, Do this in commemoration of me. Thus Jesus ensured that He would remain on earth as man until the end of time.
That is what the Holy Eucharist is. It is Jesus Christ, the same one who was conceived at Nazareth, who was born at Bethlehem, who lived in Nazareth for thirty years, who preached the sermon on the mount, and worked the miracles which proved His claims to being the living God in human form.
In the Holy Eucharist, we have the same Jesus Christ who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and ascended into heaven on Ascension Thursday. Certainly Jesus is now in heaven at the right hand of His heavenly Father. But he is also present on earth in the Blessed Sacrament. In the infallible language of the Church, the whole Christ, with His humanity and divinity, is contained under the elements of what had been bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.
We dare not qualify. It is the same identical Jesus now on earth on our altars, in our tabernacles, in the Blessed Sacrament as He is in heaven with the fullness of His human nature united with his divinity.
Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is present in his body and soul, with His hands and feet and face and pulsating Sacred Heart. In a word, it is Jesus Christ.
Why is He on earth, the Incarnate Son of God who became the Son of Mary? He is present here among us that we might come to Him and tell Him that we love Him. He is here that we might come to ask Him for whatever we need. He is here to enlighten our minds and strengthen our wills with the graces that only He the Son of God who became the son of Mary can confer.
Why is Jesus here on earth in the Holy Eucharist? He is here to continue working the miracles which He performed in Palestine two thousand years ago. Remember what the evangelist tells us: that in many places Jesus could not work miracles because of the people's lack of faith. So it was then and so it is now. The same Jesus who calmed the storm at sea and raised Lazarus from the dead is ready to perform similar miracles in our day, if only we believe. We are now living in the most critical century in human history. Millions of once professed Christians have abandoned their Christian heritage. Millions of innocent children are being murdered every year. No merely human power can bring the world to its senses. Only the Son of God who took flesh of His virgin mother can change the course of history and restore human society to its moral sanity. This almighty God who became flesh of His virgin mother is now in our midst waiting for us to come to Him and ask Him to do the humanly impossible. The Real Presence is our one hope for the restoration of humanity, in fact, for the preservation of the human race in the most crime-ridden century of human history.
All we need is to believe. But we must believe. Believe what? Believe that Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who died on the cross and rose from the dead is on earth today. All we need is to believe.
Lord Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary, You are really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, You are here the wonder worker of Palestine who wished to be the wonder worker of America. You are ready to restore our human race to its union with God and give us hope of eternal joy, provided we believe. With St. Thomas, my Lord and my God. We believe in your real presence. Help our unbelief.
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