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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Without Compromise - the Real Presence is Given

Many are offering all kinds of theories about why disciples do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Some point to the failure of teachers to propose this truth with conviction and in a compelling way. They are right. Some point to failures in liturgical practice to maintain the reverence owed to the Lord in this great gift. They are right. Others point to the nihilistic skepticism of our time - a gnawing insecurity before the cultural, social, personal and cosmic realities of our existence. They are also right.

How can a culture maintain confidence in the "reality" of anything if Christians are afraid to cry out for the sake of the Real Presence in the Public Square? How can the rest of society make space for the sacred in the marketplace of ideas if the followers of Christ will not allow themselves to be overcome with awe before the solemn presence of the Almighty under those humble signs transformed by Christ? How can anyone ever know what has been revealed by God in this surpassing Sacrament if teachers themselves are not set ablaze with love of Him and pierced with gratitude for the way He has so totally given Himself to us?

Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of the Risen Lord because teachers, ministers, and public voices have winked at evil and rejected the demands of the Gospel. We wanted the comfortable and the reality of this Presence was inconvenient. We preferred what was familiar to us and the mystery we call "Real" was lost to our hearts. We wanted power and prestige and we shunned the Mother given to us under the shadow of the Cross. Without her, who can ever know His Real Presence? Christ promised life to the full if only we might believe in Him. We chose banality because we believed in conforming our thinking to what pretends to be sophisticated and acceptable. (As if limiting one's life to what is merely acceptable ever brought anyone true happiness!) He beckoned us to renounce ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him. We renounced Him, gave our cross to someone else to deal with, and followed our own whims. Along the way, we lost our integrity even as restoration was ours for the taking. We threw away our dignity even as untold glory stretched out its hand to us. We lost our way even as the Way beckoned us home. Yet for all of this, the presence that believers call "Real" is not lessened. Through this Presence, the loving mercy of the Father extends itself into the difficult and ambiguous circumstances of our lives - to bring saving clarity and courage. The radiant glories of this Presence stream into the self-made prisons of our own egoism to unmask the collective myths that we allow to drive our lives. It is not too late to come to our senses, stand up and go to the Father as long as this real food and real drink is so freely held out to us. Hidden possibilities are disclosed under the shadow of this Presence if only we open our eyes. Hope is born in its depths if only the depths of our hearts were vulnerable to its mystery. Horizons of peace open up if only we attend to the Word whose silence resounds in that Divine Inflow we call "Real." This is radical: grounded in this Real Presence a Christian finds firm soil on which to stand and the humility finally to kneel. Such unfathomable mystery overflows all existence, every exigency and unfolds the depths of Uncreated Love - that Immeasurable Sea, that Holy Fire, that Hidden Mountain, that Secret Garden, that Deep Dug Wellspring whose life-giving depths have scarcely been plummeted by the Church even after 2000 years. Because of His Real Presence, he who gazes on this Sacrament of Love discovers the tenders eyes that have conquered death looking back at him. No longer subject to the powers of this world below, this gaze from above is real - is a true encounter. Because His Eucharistic Presence grounds all human history, including our personal histories, in truth, he who consumes this hidden Love is consumed by Love in the hidden reality of everyday life. Because this Presence is truly at work freeing and building up all that is real about our lives, he who assists at Mass is in the deepest reality of all, profoundly implicated in Christ's saving mission in ways that no one else can take up, to cry out the Gospel without compromise in one's whole way of being.

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