Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I come as Archbishop, encouraging you all and to remind you that we are all part of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
Our parish is established above all to lead us to God through worship, to teach us his truth that will shape our lives and to gather us as a community of believers.
Our Catholic faith teaches us that the same Jesus Christ, who once rested in the manger and in the tomb, is now present in every Catholic church. Here in the Blessed Sacrament he appears under the familiar shapes of food and drink, but this appearance is not the reality. The reality is Christ himself, his body and blood, soul and divinity, who is before us in the tabernacle. What appears to be bread is truly the Son of God, the bread of heaven.
So the presence of Christ is not only for the Mass, which makes present what Jesus did on the cross when he gave himself to save us. It is the same Lord we receive in Holy Communion. It is the same Lord who is present in our church in the tabernacle and is carried to the sick.
Christ, who is lifted up on the cross in the body, poured out his blood for us. Just as we bow our knee before the tabernacle or altar we remember that this is truly the blood of one who died in terrible agony for us. Catholics love and respect their families and communities. Even greater love and respect should be shown for Jesus, who gave up everything, laying down his life when he was still a young man.
Christ in the Eucharist is with us not only at Mass, but in the peace of private adoration and also in our most joyful and fearful moments. The famous Archbishop, Fulton Sheen, described the Eucharist as “the radio-active cobalt, which burns out the cancer of sin”.
His Real Presence is at the heart of First Communions and receptions into the Church. He is there when we are sick, brought from the church and coming to meet us at home or in hospital. He is there too at the end in the form of Viaticum; food for the journey. Day by day, week by week, at every Mass and in the tabernacle of every church the same presence we worship on earth, the angels adore in heaven.
Jesus really is present with us. I spent a number of years in a parish where we had a chapel where people came for adoration every day of the year. Sometimes I would go over there before work in the morning and there would be seven or eight people in the presence of the Lord, bringing their lives to him. Christ is present, is powerful, to change and uplift our lives if we bring them to him.
Adoration will stir many memories in older Catholics. Now it helps younger people to discover the comfort of being close to Christ. In these days, where so many people are concerned for their bodily health, so Christ will speak more directly to us than ever before.
Pope John Paul II said: “The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this Sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go and meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offences and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.” (John Paul II Dominicae Cenae 3).
Jesus gave us the Eucharist when he was about to offer himself on the cross, so that we would have a means of his being with us right to the end of our life. Just as Christ’s giving himself on the cross is the centre of the life of our whole world, in which we find salvation and life, so too the Eucharist has to be the centre of our life because only in coming to our God will we see our life and that of the world in perspective.
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore, Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more. See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
(St Thomas Aquinas, Adoro Te Devote)
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.