Is Jesus present during the Mass, or not?

This panel from the Arcabas polyptych of the Emmaus story, in the Church Santo Stefano Mozzanica, focuses us on the fact that the two disciples recognized him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35). It obviously points to the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass) that the early Church called “the breaking of the bread”. Still, what the disciples so powerfully experienced then seems so difficult for so many people today.

In a 2019 Pew Research Center article, Gregory A. Smith reported that “nearly seven-in-ten [self-identifying] Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion ‘are [merely] symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.’” See the article HERE.

And, do these same people believe the Lord is present in the Mass at all? I kind of doubt it. Too many self-identifying Catholics say they don’t get anything out of the Mass. How could they not get anything out of the Mass if they encountered the presence of the Lord?

The Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy teaches that the Lord is present, in the Mass, in four distinct modes: in the community gathered, in the Word proclaimed, in the presence of the priest presider, and in the Eucharist itself (in a special way). The problem is that we do teach this, and many people know the teaching, but they haven’t experienced the Lord’s presence themselves and we haven’t figured out how to help them.

Teaching about the Lord’s presence isn’t enough. We need to experience his presence ourselves, share our experience, and help others open up to that experience. That is why I wrote the book; one of its two major themes is experiencing the Lord’s presence in the Mass. I tried to give practical helps to opening ourselves to that encounter. Click the link below to find the book on Amazon.

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