When we read the official teachings of the Catholic Church, particularly the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and other Church documents, we find a profound wisdom accumulated over the years. We can learn so much from this wisdom and reflect on it to help us grow in understanding and holiness.
What does the Catechism tell us about Jesus’ presence in particular?
Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name”, in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species. (#1373, CCC)
If we want to know and love Jesus more, we can try to incorporate into our personal Lenten practices and spirituality an appreciation of the presence of Jesus by following what is presented to us in the Catechism.
First, we need to read and reflect on the Word of God. St. Jerome tells us that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (Commentary on Isaiah) Why not take the time to read a short passage each day? Using a Scripture commentary or some other guide can be helpful.
Next, Christ is found in prayer—especially the Church’s prayer, when we gather together with fellow believers as part of the mystical Body of Christ—His Church. Certainly, we can pray alone, at all times, and in secret. However, we are reminded that we are part of something bigger than ourselves—the Church, the Body of Christ. Why not pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, etc. with your fellow parishioners?
Christ is also present in our needy brothers and sisters: ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt. 25:40) Help a neighbor, visit a sick person or give to the poor. You will encounter Christ in them.
Remember Christ is found in all the Sacraments. The two Sacraments that we can usually receive on a regular, ongoing basis are the Holy Eucharist (at Mass) and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession). Make good use of both of these sacraments as well as the other sacraments at their appropriate times.
Finally, note well the emphasis given to the importance of the Eucharistic species, the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Eucharist:
The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real'--by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." (#1374, CCC)
Why not try to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and spend some time there in His Real Presence? Spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is profoundly life-giving and can be truly life-changing. Many saints, like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, were led to the Catholic faith, because of their belief in and devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
God is always aware of us and never lets us out of His sight. However, as finite, limited creatures we constantly need to direct our thoughts and attention back to God. Remembering Jesus’ presence with us “until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20) in these many ways should help us during life’s journey.
Fr. Ed Namiotka