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Bishop's Column

Bishop Barbarito Column

April 26, 2024

The Eucharistic Encounter at Easter

We are halfway through the season of Easter, which will come to its culmination on Pentecost when we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the birth of the Church. During the season of Easter, we celebrate the life we have received through the Resurrection of Jesus, both now and for eternity. During this season, it is well to reflect upon the gift of the Church and what is central to its life, which is the celebration of the Eucharist.

At the Easter Vigil, we welcomed new members into the life of the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism. These new members came to us so that we might share and live our faith with them and most especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. Baptism is the gate to the celebration of the Eucharist. All of the sacraments flow from the Eucharist and flow to the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that we enter into the actual mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. In the Eucharist, Jesus feeds us with His Body and Blood, just as He did with His disciples at the Last Supper, telling them to do the same in remembrance of Him. The Eucharist is not a recollection of what Jesus did but an actual participation in it and an actual reception of His Body and Blood.

As we encounter Christ in the Scriptures during the Easter season, it is well to note that Jesus sometimes appears to His disciples in the context of the Eucharist to remind them of His real presence. This is so as He breaks bread with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognize Him in this saving action. It is the glorified risen body of Christ that we receive in the Eucharist each time we celebrate Mass.

As we continue to celebrate the Eucharistic Revival within our nation, the Easter season provides us a wonderful opportunity to deepen our appreciation of this great mystery. The Blessed Sacrament is the true presence of Christ among us, and it is the greatest gift of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has frequently reminded us of the importance of spending time in silence before the presence of Christ in the Eucharist in order that He might speak to us in a personal manner. All of the appearances of Jesus to His disciples after His Resurrection were ones in which He touched their hearts by His presence to them in a personal manner.

As we continue to celebrate this glorious season of Easter, it is in the Eucharist, the breaking of the bread, that we most fully encounter the real presence of the risen Christ. Like the disciples who met Jesus after His Resurrection, we actually see Him in the Eucharist. However, it is only faith that is able to recognize Him fully present. Our encounter with Him is one in which we are touched in the depths of our being by His love. His love should elicit from us a similar response of love. Our response will always be incomplete and broken, and it will likewise be lacking in faith and conviction. Only the Eucharist heals us of our brokenness and brings us into the very depths of the being of God through the risen Body and Blood of Christ.

Just as the Church exists for the celebration of the Eucharist, its celebration is the very meaning of what Easter is all about. Every encounter with the risen Christ is a Eucharistic encounter. That was the case with the disciples who met Him immediately after His Resurrection. As we more deeply know Christ in the breaking of the bread, may we respond with the faith of the doubting St. Thomas, the apostle: “My Lord and my God.” As the appearance of Christ to Thomas healed him, so will the appearance of Christ to us in the Eucharist do for us as well.

Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito