Before He ascended to the Father’s Righthand, the Risen Lord promised to remain with us until the end of time. This pledge is filled with salvific tension between heaven and earth, time and eternity, and spiritual and material. Christ’s irrevocable word conveys that what is above implicates itself with all that is here below until all the meaninglessness of evil wrecks itself against the invincible rock of Divine Mercy. The Savior’s oath anticipates a final consummation when the stream of time will run its course and plunge into eternity. His promise provides hope that the merely material manner of men can be spiritualized and raised into a transforming union of life and love shared by creature and Creator.
How is this promise realized? Today, countless witnesses, ordinary men and women of all ages and of diverse social backgrounds, undergo the loss of all things and bitter martyrdom for professing His presence in their lives. Others encounter Jesus reading the Scriptures and seeking Him in prayer. Others search for the Lord among the poorest of the poor, and in the most difficult of human circumstances. Some even meet Him in their adversary whom they have persecuted. Wherever He is sought in faith, there He is found.
There are other, even more wonderful ways, He reveals His presence. A full encounter with Christ always involves His mystical Body and the visible bonds through which He delights in working. When the Church gathers in prayer, even if only two or three, He is always in their midst. He is present as their foundation, their cornerstone, their capstone – and He implicates Himself in their every care. To cry out to Him, no matter how alone one might feel, is to enter into this magnificent edifice of His undying presence and to be embraced by a solidarity of hearts so profound that not even death can overcome it.
He is present in all the baptized in the Holy Spirit joined as they are in Him by powerful sacramental mysteries. In those joined in marriage, He is present as Bridegroom is to His Bride — manifesting a mystery so beautiful the mightiest of angels gaze in astonishment. In the deacon, the Lord Himself is present as the very servant of those who He loves. In the priest, because Christ has ordained Him, the Lord’s holy presence heals, builds up, and nourishes His whole Mystical Body.
Yet, of all the gifts of His presence, the greatest and most beautiful of all is His Real Presence in the Sacrament of His Love. What is the Eucharist but the great hymn of thanksgiving rendered by the Son from all eternity before the Father in a manner so real we can see and taste it? Under the appearance of Bread and Wine, the Eucharistic Lord communicates Himself into us Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. His spiritual power resonates in our very bones and raises into harmony the most painful thoughts and difficult desires.
In this Real Presence, a new heavens and a new earth are already being refashioned if only we were open to the conversion He evokes. In this Sacred Banquet human existence is spiritualized and the union for which the heart longs already takes hold if only we will nourish ourselves in the adoring reverence His majesty establishes. Here, heaven embraces our earthly ways, spiritual life flows into our dying bodies, our misery confronts a mercy so much the more and eternity begins in time. Here, no matter the battles we fight, new confidence is conceived, peace flows, judgments surrender before the truth, insight is granted, the resolve to try again restored, and a new beginning is born. Unleashed by faith, this Real Presence inebriates with untold joy even as exhausted eyes strive to lift themselves to behold such a tireless gift so generously lavished upon them.
Image by Josh Applegate on Unsplash.