Bishop Rhoades kicked off the Investiture weekend at the Grand Wayne Center on Saturday, September 16, with a talk on the Eucharist as sacrifice, presence, and communion, and started by citing a Pew Research study that showed that a majority of Catholics only see the Eucharist as a symbol rather than the true body and blood of Christ.
“This was extremely disheartening. But at the same time, I think it woke all of us up – including the bishops – that we need to address this crisis of Eucharistic faith among many Catholics,” Bishop Rhoades said. “I wonder why only about 20 percent of Catholics attend Mass every Sunday in the United States. Well, I can say, ‘Why attend?’ if you think it’s just a symbol. Of course, this is part of the wider crisis of faith in our culture. We’ve seen the rapid growth in the numbers of people who no longer identify with a religion.”
Bishop Rhoades went on to talk about the Eucharist as sacrifice.
“Jesus gives Himself in sacrifice for the beloved, for us, His bride, the Church. And Jesus’ love for us, the Church, is sacrificial: It’s infinitely so. He gave His life for us on the cross. The Eucharist is His sacrificial offering of Himself to the Father on our behalf. The Eucharist is one with Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. He makes Himself present as the victim of Calvary offered by Himself as the High Priest.”
As it is understood in modern times, the idea of “memorial,” Bishop Rhoades said, is about remembering with our minds. The Hebew understanding, however, was more present and real.
“When Jesus said to ‘do this in memory of me,’ it meant more than just remembering with our minds, because, in the Jewish understanding, what one was remembering in liturgical events like Passover made the event, in a certain way, present and real.”
He continued to discuss the Eucharist as presence, saying that Jesus is no longer present in the same way that He was during His earthly life because He was subjected to the limits of time and space and was only physically present in His human form for 33 years on earth.
“In becoming present in the Eucharist, He allows His disciples, through the centuries, to have contact with His sacred humanity. Think about that. He’s present not just in one place now. He’s present in all the tabernacles of the world. In the Eucharist, He is present among us as our redeemer.”
Finishing out his talk, he described the Eucharist as communion, saying that Catholics are united to Christ “in the most intimate way when we receive His body and blood, which is why we call it holy Communion.
“This union with Jesus also brings us into communion with one another in the Church. That’s why the Church teaches that the Eucharist makes the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas refers to the Eucharist as the sacrament of the Church’s unity.”
After Bishop Rhoades’ talk, Sami El-Yousef, CEO of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, spoke via Zoom about supporting Christians living in the Holy Land. His family has been living in the Holy Land for several generations, and throughout the last century, has seen control of the area shift every few decades.
“The only constant thing in our lives, honestly, has been the Church and institutions of the Church,” El-Yousef said. “This, I think, puts some important emphasis on the role that the Church plays in the life of people – not only Christians, not only Catholics in the Holy Land – in building societies through education, health care, and social services.”
He continued to illustrate how, since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the proportion of Christians living in the Holy Land has plummeted. For example, the Christian share of the population in Jerusalem has dropped from 36 percent to 1 percent.
After identifying numerous political, economic, and pandemic-related issues he said are plaguing the Christian community in the Holy Land, El-Yousef noted the ways in which the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem has supported this community.
“One hundred seventy-five years of a two-joint partnership between the Latin Patriarchate and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre – a partnership that truly has brought relief, joy, education, and faith-filled activities for so many thousands and thousands, if not tens and hundreds of thousands throughout the years. This is an opportunity to say thank you so much for your support. We truly appreciate all that support.”
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