On this 20th Sunday in Ordinary time, in the gospel reading we reflect upon the true Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, how it is necessary for us to “eat His body and drink His Blood: that we may have life in us. Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, reminds us how it is through the Holy Eucharist that the gifts of the Spirit are realized in our souls.
“The most complete sacramental expression of the “departure” of Christ through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection is the Eucharist. In every celebration of the Eucharist his coming, his salvific presence, is sacramentally realized: in the Sacrifice and in Communion. It is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit, as part of his own mission. Through the Eucharist the Holy Spirit accomplishes that “strengthening of the inner man” spoken of in the Letter to the Ephesians. Through the Eucharist, individuals and communities, by the action of the Paraclete-Counselor, learn to discover the divine sense of human life, as spoken of by the Council: that sense whereby Jesus Christ “fully reveals man to man himself,” suggesting “a certain likeness between the union of the divine persons, and the union of God’s children in truth and charity.” This union is expressed and made real especially through the Eucharist, in which man shares in the sacrifice of Christ which this celebration actualizes, and he also learns to “find himself...through a...gift of himself,” through communion with God and with others, his brothers and sisters.
For this reason the early Christians, right from the days immediately following the coming down of the Holy Spirit, “devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” and in this way they formed a community united by the teaching of the Apostles. Thus “they recognized” that their Risen Lord, who had ascended into heaven, came into their midst anew in that Eucharistic community of the Church and by means of it. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church from the beginning expressed and confirmed her identity through the Eucharist. And so it has always been, in every Christian generation, down to our own time, down to this present period when we await the end of the second Christian Millennium. Of course, we unfortunately have to acknowledge the fact that the Millennium which is about to end is the one in which there have occurred the great separations between Christians. All believers in Christ, therefore, following the example of the Apostles, must fervently strive to conform their thinking and action to the will of the Holy Spirit, “the principle of the Church’s unity,” so that all who have been baptized in the one Spirit in order to make up one body may be brethren joined in the celebration of the same Eucharist, “a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity!”
Christ’s Eucharistic presence, his sacramental “I am with you,” enables the Church to discover ever more deeply her own mystery, as shown by the whole ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, whereby “the Church is in Christ as a sacrament or sign and instrument of the intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race.” As a sacrament, the Church is a development from the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s “departure,” living by his ever new “coming” by the power of the Holy Spirit, within the same mission of the Paraclete-Spirit of truth. Precisely this is the essential mystery of the Church, as the Council professes.
While it is through creation that God is he in whom we all “live and move and have our being, “in its turn the power of the Redemption endures and develops in the history of man and the world in a double “rhythm” as it were, the source of which is found in the Eternal Father. On the one hand there is the rhythm of the mission of the Son, who came into the world and was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit; and on the other hand there is also the rhythm of the mission of the Holy Spirit, as he was revealed definitively by Christ. Through the “departure” of the Son, the Holy Spirit came and continues to come as Counselor and Spirit of truth. And in the context of his mission, as it were within the indivisible presence of the Holy Spirit, the Son, who “had gone away” in the Paschal Mystery, “comes” and is continuously present in the mystery of the Church, at times concealing himself and at times revealing himself in her history, and always directing her steps. All of this happens in a sacramental way, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who, “drawing from the wealth of Christ’s Redemption,” constantly gives life. As the Church becomes ever more aware of this mystery, she sees herself more clearly, above all as a sacrament.
This also happens because, by the will of her Lord, through the individual sacraments the Church fulfills her salvific ministry to man. This sacramental ministry, every time it is accomplished, brings with it the mystery of the “departure” of Christ through the Cross and the Resurrection, by virtue of which the Holy Spirit comes. He comes and works: “He gives life.” For the sacraments signify grace and confer grace: they signify life and give life. The Church is the visible dispenser of the sacred signs, while the Holy Spirit acts in them as the invisible dispenser of the life which they signify. Together with the Spirit, Christ Jesus is present and acting.”