“It is my prayer and firm conviction that we make the Most Holy Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the heart and center of our Sesquicentennial Celebration. Indeed, this august sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ among us, has sustained us over these many years and has been the driving force for our Diocese’s pastoral, apostolic, and charitable works, ever mindful of the motto of Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid, our first Bishop: “Salus Animarum, Lex Suprema” (“The Salvation of Souls is the Supreme Law”). – Bishop Matano
Why does it make sense for Bishop Matano to pray that “we make the Most Holy Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the heart and center of our Sesquicentennial Celebration”?
Simply put, the Most Holy Eucharist is at the heart and center of our Diocesan anniversary because it is at the heart and center of the Church! This is true for us today in the Diocese of Rochester and it was true in the early Church as well, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (2:42).
The most significant reason for the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church is mentioned in a passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoted by Bishop Matano in his Letter: “in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself” (§1324). The Holy Eucharist is at the heart and center of the Church because the Eucharist is the real, self-giving presence of Jesus Christ, the Church’s true treasure and glory!
The Church cannot exist apart from the personal presence of Jesus Christ. How could the Body of Christ exist apart from its Head? How could the flock know the way to safe and verdant pastures in the absence of its Shepherd? The glory of the Church is found in this: that it is the place where all people may encounter the personal presence of our Savior, Jesus who reveals the loving heart of the Father in the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis put it like this: “the Church brings Jesus: this is the center of the Church, to carry Jesus! If, as a hypothesis, the Church were not to bring Jesus, she would be a dead Church. The Church must bring Jesus, the love of Jesus, the charity of Jesus” (General Audience, October 13, 2013).
The Eucharist, then, is the real presence of Jesus Christ in the very heart of the Church. It is the place where the Church most powerfully mediates His very life and love. Here all people are invited in a particularly powerful way to turn away from sin, to encounter Jesus Christ, and to receive newness of life! Remarkably, this real presence also is the glorious fulfillment of Jesus’s promise, that he would be with his Church “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
May this Year of the Eucharist help us recognize that “the Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history” (Pope St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, §9).