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On Wednesday June 6th, I will celebrate my ninth anniversary as a priest. And as I remember Ordination day and the day after when I celebrated my Mass of Thanksgiving, there is one phrase that echoes through my memories: I will see you in the Eucharist.
Normally at the celebration of Mass, I preach. However when a new priest celebrates his first Mass, the new priest usually invites another priest to preach. The homily at the first Mass of a newly ordained priest is not usually preached to the congregation; it is preached directly to the new priest. It is a conversation between brothers and the congregation is allowed to overhear the conversation. I invited Father Jim Erving of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to preach at my first Mass. I met Father Jim a few months before I entered seminary. He was only a few years older than me, but I knew when I met him that I would invite him one day to preach to me at my Mass of Thanksgiving. Throughout my time in seminary, whenever I would speak with Father Jim, he would always remind me, “I will see you in the Eucharist.” It was a promise of his prayers, but more than that it was the recognition that when we celebrate the Eucharist, we are mystically united with all of the baptized. When we come to adore the Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, we are united with all of those who keep watch before his holy presence. There is no distance between us when we are gathered around the Altar of the Lord and the tabernacle in the Church. We will see each other in the Eucharist, even though many miles separate us.
We celebrate today the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the mystery of Holy Thursday celebrated in the radiant glory of Easter. We celebrate the gift of the priesthood of Christ and the gift of the Eucharist. Christ Jesus, who is the eternal High Priest, shared his priesthood with his apostles so that they would be an extension of his priesthood. From generation to generation the priesthood of Christ has been handed on so that the words that Christ spoke on Holy Thursday could be powerfully spoken in every place and time. The Lord Jesus consecrated bread and wine, and he consecrated his apostles. Jesus consecrated all who share in the ministry of the apostles, so that they would consecrate bread and wine. The words that he spoke, they would speak. The bread that he broke, they would break. The body and blood that he gave, they would give. When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we join in the eternity of heaven. All time passes away and we are present in the upper room in Jerusalem. We are present with the Lord and with all of those of every time and place who have looked to him in hope. In the celebration of the Eucharist and before the tabernacle of the Lord we are united with our Great High Priest who lives forever to make intercession for us. We will see each other in the Eucharist, though hours and days and generations are between us.
I will see you in the Eucharist. I thought of those words on an October evening in 2013 when I received the news that Father Jim had a brain tumor. I sent him a simple message. I will see you in the Eucharist. When he called me on Christmas Eve that year, we spoke some about his illness. We spoke more about faith, about our unity in the Eucharist, and about the privilege of being priests. I asked for his blessing. I gave him mine. And we promised to see each other in the Eucharist.
I will see you in the Eucharist. I thought of those words often only a few months later when Father Jim was called to the house of the Father. It was very early in the morning on the 18th of March in 2014. And my first thoughts were, I will pray for him today at the Eucharist.
Distance and time are not the only things that fall away when we celebrate the Eucharist and adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. When we celebrate the Eucharist and when we kneel before the tabernacle, we are in the presence of the one who has conquered death forever. The power of the Eucharist is stronger than death. When the Eucharist is celebrated the demons cry out in terror and death falls silent before the Word of eternal life. We see each other in the Eucharist, because Christ has conquered sin and death.
This is the gift of the Lord Jesus that we celebrate on this most holy day. The Lord Jesus gives us himself in the Eucharist. He gives us a share in his sacrifice so that we can receive his sacrament of unity. He invites us to the banquet where distance and time and even death pass away. The Lord Jesus invites us to see him, and each other, in the Eucharist. Amen.