Does it sound “off” to say that Christ waits for us, hidden in the tabernacle in church? He abides in every Catholic cathedral, basilica, parish, and other repositories where the Sacred Eucharist is reserved with reverence and awe.
From the tabernacle, the repository in every Catholic Church, the Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ resides, waiting.
God’s joy abounds when His children visit during the extra hours, before and after Mass, and during the week, when one freely offers himself or herself to God without measure, wholly surrendering to the Divine Will. Do you take time during the week to meet with Him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent, outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under Eucharistic species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. (CCC, 1379)
An Act of Sacrilege
In the early 2000s, two youths broke into our parish during the night and desecrated the Holy Place. They attempted to set fire to the altar and the sacristy, but the places they ignited refused to burn. They managed to smash the tabernacle and steal the Blessed Sacrament. Early the next morning, the pastor (who is now bishop), and another priest (who is also bishop in another diocese) tracked the path of the miscreants by retrieving dropped or thrown Sacred Hosts.
With much tears, Father LaValley and Father Lucia, retrieved each of the desecrated Hosts and returned them to the parish. Many of the parishioners cried when they heard the story, many hearts were broken by the sacrilege. That is because our faith assures us the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ Himself.
It would be difficult to replace the beautiful tabernacle destroyed beyond repair. Without thinking twice, our generous Bishop Gerald Barbarito (now Bishop of Palm Beach), gave his personal tabernacle to the parish.
Several weeks later, the parish rejoiced as the pastor re-consecrated the church building, which is what must be done after such a desecration. He could not stop the tears flowing down his cheeks; tears of joy and hope, forgiveness and thanksgiving. Most importantly, they were tears of faith.
Without restraint, the good pastor taught the parishioners that that Sacred Host was indeed the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus the Messiah, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
The Catechism teaches that the Eucharist is to be worshiped. Catholics genuflect before the tabernacle, which is a form of worship because God merits our adoration (CCC, 1378). Pope John Paul II explains: “In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love: The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship.”
The Catechism adds: “Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease” (CCC, 1380).
The Belief of Faith
One of the challenges we face in the world today revolves around faith. Recent polls suggest that not only does the world not believe the Eucharist to be the Body and Blood of Christ, but a percentage of fellow Catholics themselves, people who attend Holy Mass, do not believe that teaching either. They think the bread and wine are merely “symbols” of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is understood by them as a symbolic representation of the sacrifice, not the actual sacrifice itself, which is what the Church believes.
The Catechism quotes St. Thomas Aquinas in saying that “in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by faith, which relies on divine authority’” (CCC, 1381).
Faith in His Presence in the Eucharist is based on the Word of God. Jesus assures us in the Gospels, “’Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a chalice, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26, RSV-CE).
“My Body, My Blood,” He tells us in each liturgy, each Holy Mass. We hear the words of Christ come forth from the priest, or bishop, or pope who speaks in persona Christi, “in the person of Christ.” We believe this. This is our faith. From the altar of grace Christ Jesus speaks, declaring the bread His Body, declaring the wine His Blood. It does not symbolize His Body and Blood. The Priest does not symbolize Christ speaking those words. He acts as Christ, offering the same sacrifice in an un-bloody way on the altar before us.
Loss of Faith
The Apostle James declares that, when one loses faith, he or she “is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1: 6b, 7). Without faith it is impossible to please God (cf. Hebrews 11:6). “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear,” (Hebrews 11:3).
In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul states, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Chapter 4 of Romans explains the faith of Abraham that comes to us. In verse 13, he explains, “The promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.”
Faith is the doorway to the new life Christ has prepared for us. By faith we believe the words He speaks to us in each Liturgy: “This is My Body, My Blood.”
Advent Faith and Waiting
We are in the Season of Advent. A busy time? Probably. Too busy to sneak into a Catholic Church for a few minutes and kneel before the tabernacle? Maybe.
What better way to express our faith in His Word that says in Matthew, “… and behold, I am with you always to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). What a tremendous testimony of faith to share with others, particularly when they know we make the time we didn’t think we had, to sit or kneel before the tabernacle during the day, when we should probably be doing something else.
We do it because we believe. Happy Advent