Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minn., elevates the Eucharist during his installation Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Crookston Dec. 6, 2021. CNS PHOTO/DAVE HRBACEK, THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Real Presence: Experience the mystery!


Is it possible to receive the Eucharist and not experience God’s love? Unfortunately, it is, and many have walked away from the gift of the Eucharist and feel there was nothing there for them. Have you ever received the Eucharist and walked away unchanged? Honestly, it can happen to any of us. There is something required of us to “experience the mystery.”

Quoting our Catechism paragraph 1128, “the Sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God. From the moment that the sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it… Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”

This month in our Acts 2:42 Small Groups we are reading from a document titled, “The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist” written by our U.S. bishops, in which they remind us: “We are thus enabled to understand at least in some measure what would otherwise remain unknown to us, though we can never completely comprehend the mystery of God.” The words of Jesus, the teachings of the apostles and Church dogma are all clear about what the Eucharist is, and yet, it is called a mystery.

No matter how we try to explain that the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus, our language falls short. And our faith and disposition become of utmost importance.

Much concern has been generated regarding recent surveys in the Church that people either don’t understand Church teaching on the Eucharist or simply don’t believe it. Another way to respond to these surveys is to help people realize that so much of our faith is a mystery. And that our words are indeed limited in conveying the truths of God and describing eternal realities. However, God wants to encounter us. God wants humanity to experience unconditional, merciful love and Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts knocking every moment of every day, and especially as we receive Holy Communion.

While we might not fully understand or be able to technically explain the Real Presence, let’s live our faith. We do this by cultivating a good disposition by preparing ourselves well and centering our lives around the Eucharistic table. May our disposition of longing for God’s love, of preparing well to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, and of pausing to contemplate the mystery while inviting Jesus into our hearts, truly change us for the better at every Mass. We do not need words for this, for we are forever changed, and our lives reflect it in how we love!

In this Advent season, may we more fully experience the mystery and invite others by the way we live it.

Blessings to you and yours this Christmas.



Dr. Jeff Andrini is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship, and can be reached at [email protected].

Originally printed in the December 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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