Appreciating the ‘Source and Summit of Christian Life’

By Bishop Paul Sirba

For Jesus, it wasn’t enough that he was born in a barn. It wasn’t enough that he lived 30 years of his life in anonymity. It wasn’t enough that he spent three years of his life tirelessly preaching and teaching and working miracles. And it wasn’t enough that our Lord embraced the agony in the garden, the cruel scourging and crowning with thorns, the ignominious way of the cross, and dying and rising in order to save us.

Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth, MN

He loved his own and he loved them beyond the end, and so he miraculously left us the gift of himself in the Eucharist. To come to realize that God loved his own beyond the end in such a way that his presence was to remain until the end of time in the Eucharist is a great foreshadowing of the eternal banquet of heaven.

His love makes it possible for us to truly love. Those ordained know the love of the Lord and consider it a privilege and grace beyond imagining that God has chosen them, weak and sinful instruments though they are, to make him present under the appearances of bread and wine.

The church draws her life from the Eucharist. The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” — the source of holiness.

To draw from Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ Himself, our Passover and living bread. Through His own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, He offers life to men. Consequently the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of His boundless love.”

Sadly, many Catholics, depending on what poll you read, don’t know about the intimacy and life the Lord offers us in the Eucharist, the source of our holiness. They don’t realize that our Lord is really and truly present in the Eucharist.

Father John Peter Cameron makes a great point in an editorial in the June issue of Magnificat when he says: “One has to wonder if the reason why so many fail to believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist is because they do not have a lived experience of ‘real presence.’ Without an encounter with real presence in our daily lives, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist becomes an idea, an abstraction. People have no frame of reference for seeing its relevance to their needs.”

At the same time, people are experiencing a great unhappiness as they search to fill this inner longing. They are making choices based on an inner poverty and choosing false goods in order to feed the emptiness — “What drug is going to take my pain away today?”

Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “The root of man’s wretchedness is loneliness — is the fact that my existence is not embraced by a love that makes it necessary.”

The divine remedy is the love of the Lord in the Eucharist. That is why Sunday Mass and the reception of the Holy Eucharist should be the high point of our week. The Lord himself comes to fill us and heal us. We become what we receive.


The Most Rev. Paul Sirba is Bishop of Duluth, MN. This article was exerpted from a message on the ordination of deacons and priests.

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