The most vital characteristic of our Catholic faith is not its external organization that has of late, thanks to Pope Francis, attracted the attention of the media. What makes us flourish, if flourish we do, is our vivid consciousness of the presence of Jesus with us in the Eucharist, what we call “the real presence.” It has been the subject of countless sermons and commentaries over the centuries simply because it is central to the faith. It so functions because it continues in a wonderful way what began with the coming of the Son of God in the Flesh. In him we find together the transcendent and the immanent, the supernatural and the natural, the spiritual and the physical. For to encounter the man Jesus was truly to encounter God. Similarly, in the Eucharist we have the physical presence of Jesus—“This is my body”—that ensures that He is fully the presence of the God-man.
There is a further grandeur to the Blessed Sacrament that Jesus enunciated in His farewell discourse at the Last Supper: His own presence within us when we receive Communion ensures that of the Father as well, for Jesus said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” And, inseparable from the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit: “I shall pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you forever.” You see, then, that an immediate consequence of our recognition of the real presence is an awareness of the dignity of the Christian as the dwelling place of the Holy Trinity.
Scripture uses several metaphors to express these sublime tenets of our faith: the vine and the branches in Saint John, The Pauline doctrine of the (mystical) body, Saint Peter’s description of the temple made of living stones. The first two – the vine and the branches or the body and its parts — are universal, in that they refer to what Saint Paul termed the whole Christ, head and members. The image of the temple—the “spiritual house” of 1 Peter 2.5—however, can signify the individual believer as well as the Church as a whole, for Saint Paul states categorically, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwell in you?”