I am the living bread that came down from heaven. (gospel)

The center of the human body is the heart.  The lungs, liver, stomach, and lymph node; the arms, legs, and head; the circulatory, the digestive and the nervous system, all of these are kept alive by the simple beating of the heart.  

The church is a body in which there are many functions, roles, ministries, persons, hierarchy, teachings and actions.  What keeps all of these going is the heart of the Church, the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus among us.

When traveling, you might enter a church building and feel a little insecure.  You look around the interior of the church and your eyes come to rest on the red burning light in the sanctuary and you are suddenly at home.  The Red burning light, or the “Sanctuary Lamp” as we call it, is a reminder that the Heart of the living Church, the One who keeps the Church alive and well, is present, “the Living Bread come down from heaven”. There is the heart of the Church, a true living organism centered in the Eucharist mystery.

As Catholics we hold many things in common with other Christians: Jesus is the Lord, we must be born again of the Spirit, God’s word is known in the Scriptures, and much more.  The difference is the Eucharist, the heart of the Church.

The Sanctuary Lamp reminds us of three important facts. Jesus is really present, he feeds us and he is accessible.

First, Jesus is present. During these summer months as you travel and enter this Church, he is here. After the Mass when people return to their occupations, he is here.  While the world revolves, while the sun shines or the moon lightens the night, through calm and storm, through wars and famine, in moments of joy and triumph, he is here.  

It is here in the presence of Christ that our spirits find the warmth of grace and spiritual insight. Great missionary works, outstanding contributions to society have often begun in this Eucharistic presence of Jesus.  In times of war, in times of sickness, sorrow or pain, many have come to find his presence. Individuals who seek their vocation, those who wish to strengthen their vows of marriage or religious commitment, those who have a sense of sin and loss, come to find the source of new life in his presence.  Saints and sinners, drifters and converts, find Him waiting here.  Here in the Eucharist, Jesus waits with longing to love, to touch our hearts, heal our lives and grant us peace. 

In Eucharist, Jesus is truly present.  It is not simple imaginary or poetic presence.  It is the real presence of the body, soul, humanity and divinity of Jesus, his true person, living among us as truly as he lives in heaven in the Father’s presence too.

Secondly, Jesus is sacrificial food for us. Just as grains of wheat are broken down and gathered together into flour, so Jesus brings together in himself all that is life giving. Like flour molded together with water, we take the shape of a new being in Christ.  As fire gives lasting substance to the loaf, so the love of Jesus, his dying and rising through the sacrifice of his love on Calvary brings us a tangible new presence that calls us to be broken with him into a new body of love for him and for each other.

Here we bring our broken lives. All our hungers, pains and sufferings are gathered into one. In the Eucharist, Jesus molds us into the dough of spiritual renewal. Though seemingly broken, we are gathered and in the beating heart of his Eucharistic gift, we are made anew, strengthened, healed, forgiven, set free to serve, to touch, and to transform our homes, communities and society.

Finally, in the Eucharist, Jesus is accessible.  In every local Catholic Church we will find his presence so that we might be sent to serve as a people of faith, beginning with our Sunday Eucharistic celebration. 

In every Catholic Church throughout the world, he is here to receive you as you search for his peace, his love and is comfort.  Many come to worship and pray at the place where the Sanctuary Light affirms that Christ is present.  

He is accessible to the sick as ordained or extraordinary ministers transport Christ in Eucharist to the homes of the sick, the homebound or the dying.

He is accessible in occasional processions among the people. He is accessible as the prisoner of his own love for us, waiting, longing, and hungering to be visited by his loved ones.  He desires to have our companionship, to voice our needs of him, to tell him of our joys in him, to make our gifts to him, to share our time with him.  He longs for us to need him more than our own breath.

He is present to give life to those who live in the bonds of matrimonial unity. He remains among us to extend his hand of forgiveness over our sins.  He keeps watch over the deepest needs of our bodies and souls.    He feeds what is hungry in us and fixes what is broken in our lives. 

Jesus has indeed built his house among us as we hear in the Book of Wisdom. He has spread his table so that, forsaking all foolishness in life, we might advance in the ways of understanding.

Therefore we must make the most of the opportunity of Christ’s Eucharistic presence. The light shining in the sometimes dark corners of our sanctuaries keep reminding us that Jesus is what he claims: “I am the Bread come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” “Come to me all who labor and are heavy burdened.”

So, called to be a people of the Eucharist, let us ever more fervently come to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord”.  You may at times forget the heartbeat in your own body, but this Eucharistic Heart is the life beat of the Church. Jesus is present, he feeds us, he is accessible. Take time to listen and you will hear the heartbeat of Christ in the Eucharist.


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