This past January, I went on a silent retreat way out in South Bend, Indiana in preparation for my ordination to the diaconate. Just as I was about to switch off my phone and go into full-on retreat mode, I got the kind of text that nobody ever wants to receive… My Grandma was going in for emergency surgery and there wasn’t much of a chance she would survive… I was almost 1,000 miles away from home with five days of excruciating silence ahead of me, and I really couldn’t do anything…

Thankfully, the convent where I was staying had a perpetual adoration chapel — and there before the face of our Eucharistic Lord, I had the pleasure of spending some long, fruitful hours in prayer.

At one point, as I looked up at the monstrance, with the Lord gazing out from within, I called to mind some of the best memories I have of my Grandma — especially the times she dragged me to Old St. Patrick’s in downtown Pittsburgh — where they have a replica of the stairs Jesus climbed up for his trial before Pontus Pilate. I have this vivid memory of her going up those stairs on her hands and knees — with the altar and tabernacle just visible at the top of the staircase. And as I remembered all this, gazing on the Eucharist there in South Bend Indiana, Jesus’ words suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks…

“Have I been with you so long, and still you do not know Me?”

Have I been with you in the Eucharist for so long and still you haven’t recognized my perfect, merciful, steadfast Love? Haven’t I been there at every crucial turning point in your life? Haven’t I loved you even as you wandered away from Me? Haven’t I forgiven you over and over for the same mistakes? 

Have I been with you in the Eucharist this entire time and still… you don’t believe that I am with you always, even unto the end of the age?

My brothers and sisters, on this Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus — Corpus Christi — we boldly proclaim again a central truth about the greatest gift our Savior left us: 

The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever. There is only One Lord. There is only One Mass. There is only One Eucharist.

Yes, there are literally billions of Eucharistic hosts in Tabernacles around the globe, but there’s only One Eucharist… because there’s only One Jesus Christ. 

It’s like this: The Eucharist I was adoring there in Indiana, praying for my sick Grandma far away in Pittsburgh was the same Eucharist I unknowingly adored in the tabernacle of Old St. Patrick’s as a kid. It’s the same Eucharist a cancer patient is receiving for the final time in some forgotten hospital room. It’s the same exact Eucharist a brave priest went in to save as Notre Dame Cathedral was burning in Paris. It’s the same Eucharist that your deceased friends and family devoutly received every Sunday. It’s the same Eucharist we are about to offer to the Father on this altar in just a few minutes…

Jesus — crucified and risen — is the same — yesterday today and forever — in each and every host, fragment and drop of the Holy Eucharist across all space and time. Our Gospel today gives us a glimpse of this reality: 

Jesus effortlessly multiplied the five loaves and two fish through the hands of the apostles. Today, he effortlessly multiplies His Real Presence on every altar around the world through the hands of His priests.

This is what St. Paul is talking about in our second reading today: “What I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you!” Saint Paul is handing on the same exact Eucharist that Jesus instituted in the Upper Room on Holy Thursday, the night before he died:

“Have I been with you so long, and still you do not know Me?”

All this rushed at me there in the silence of that little chapel in Indiana. And to be blunt: I was overwhelmed. It’s an experience I’m still unpacking. But I offer you just a couple of thoughts on this Feast of Corpus Christi that you can bring into your own prayer life so as to come to love the Eucharist more deeply:

First: Because we share the same Eucharist, Jesus wants us to be on the same page. We are not just individual people or individual parishes. First and foremost, we are the Whole and Entire Body of Christ. Every Sunday, we say that we believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, right? When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the unity of the Lord, and by extension… the Church’s Eucharistic unity. Therefore, let’s put all our divisions aside!

Second: We can’t afford to miss Mass. It’s the family dinner table. No matter what’s going on in the Church, no matter what we may disagree on, no matter what else we have going on in our lives — Jesus is Present here, and He wants us to be here too. Some studies say less than 30% of Catholics go to Mass consistently, and probably even less with the current scandal still raging. This is a tragedy! We’re hungry and our God wants to feed us! So let’s show up.

Lastly: Jesus wants us to visit Him in the Eucharist. Let the sanctuary lamp be a constant reminder… He is waiting for you there. Go and make a visit to your Lord! He loves the company. From the tabernacle, the Lord says to each of us: “Come to me… All of you!”

Thanks be to God, my 96 year old Grandma miraculously survived surgery back in January and has been dumbfounding doctors ever since. I know that the Eucharist has been her Life and Strength, and whenever it is her time, I trust she’ll be well prepared to go home to God. 

When it comes down to it, that’s pretty much the heart of the Eucharist: It is Christ Himself preparing us to be united with Him forever in Heaven: We pray  give us this day our daily bread,” and he does! This Sacrament of His Love is a promise of immortality and resurrection. It is a taste even now of Eternity! My sincere prayer is that each of us falls in love with the Eucharist more and more. From this Altar, he gives us Himself, which is all we need.