ORLANDO | More than 1,000 faithful gathered to listen to three very different speakers share insights regarding the Eucharist at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Sept. 8.
As part of the Diocese of Orlando 50th anniversary jubilee, honoring the Year of the Eucharist, “The Gift of Sacred Mystery” delved into the Eucharist as gift, and as sacred, mysterious encounter.
Speaking of the Eucharist as gift, Holy Cross Bishop William Wack, of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, admitted he was baffled by those who say, “I don’t get a lot out of the Mass. It’s the same thing every week.” His reply came in a familiar song: “Look beyond the bread you eat, see your savior and your Lord. Look beyond the cup you drink, see his love poured out as blood.”
“This is God before us,” Bishop Wack said. “This is where we have to let go of our senses and trust Jesus? We will never ever understand it, but we must believe because Jesus said it and it is our salvation.”
As Catholics believing in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, he said this presence can be life-changing if they are open to it. Those who partake in the Eucharist are “are ambassadors for Christ” empowered by the gift of Communion.
“Through our prayers and our gestures we are drawn into the mystery that is Christ,” he said, adding to believe anything else leaves nothing but empty promises.
Quoting the famous Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor he said, “If it’s just a symbol, then we are only symbolically connected with Christ; then we are not present to Jesus death and resurrection; we don’t have forgiveness for our sins or the promise of resurrection.”
Sister of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary Maria Teresa Acosta served as another speaker. From popes to saints who encountered the sacred heart of Christ, she unpacked the reality of how “the Eucharistic heart” is the living sign of the kingdom of love.
“(It is) a kingdom that takes place in the soul of men, where nothing external can remove it,” said the pastoral assistant of Annunciation Church in Altamonte Springs. “It is this sacrifice that makes Eucharist the sacrament of love. When we speak of the Eucharist, we are talking about what is most sacred, the heart of love of our Lord.”
“To participate of the Eucharist is to allow his love to transform us, to transform our heart,” she continued. “This is how each one of us can participate in the celestial kingdom on earth – to live the path of love which is the only way we can conquer evil.”
She explained how this loves invites people to respond as “great witnesses of love,” who are called to be “authentic, courageous, faithful.”
“This (Eucharist) is the eternal banquet,” Sister Acosta said. “It is a mystery to behold, a mystery to be shared, a mystery to be lived.”
Bishop Robert Reed, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston and President/CEO of iCatholic Media Inc., likened discipleship to being in traffic. He acknowledged being a disciple of Jesus is “not a spectator sport.”
“People need to know who it is that we are following and where it is that we are going,” he said. “We are like the first apostles, sent, empowered to fearlessly change this corner of the Lord’s vineyard. … When we love our children, are faithful to our spouse, live good and holy lives as consecrated men and women, when we fight to protect the unborn, when we care for the dying, abdicate for the immigrant, turn our back on the devil as he tempts us to degrade ourselves and our bodies, when we sit in quiet prayer or make a good confession… we are letting people know that Jesus is the reason for our being in every season,” he said.
The bishop added there is nothing more in important in life than helping “each other get to heaven.” he emphasized. “You can be living the dream,” he said, “but if in the end the gates of heaven do not swing open for you, then it was all a colossal waste of time.”
Bishop John Noonan concluded that it is a life of prayer that allows Catholics to be open to the mystery and to fulfill it.
“We are Catholic. We are followers of Jesus Christ and we believe in the great gift that God has given us, the sacred mystery that nourishes us, strengthens us and leads us to the greatest place of all, to be with God in heaven,” Bishop Noonan said. “The greatest gift is that you bring Jesus Christ within you.”