The Holy Father has given an incredible gift to the Church for this coming year. To declare this time as the "Year of the Eucharist" is a gift to us for two reasons. First, it calls us to spend this year reflecting on what we believe about the Eucharistic Lord. Second and in a sense more importantly, it indicates what the Lord Jesus wishes to do in our hearts and in the heart of His Bride during this year- it is an invitation from Him and a promise of grace for us in this area. This will hopefully result in the growth both of our understanding and of our faith concerning this most vital dimension of our Catholic life.
Why is this so important, i.e. what is so important about the Eucharist? The Church has stated the absolute importance of the Eucharist in a variety of ways, e.g. Eucharist is important because it is the "source and summit of the Christian life," (Catechism of the Catholic Church) etc. However, the simplest answer is: the Eucharist is important because it is the Lord Jesus Himself. Why, then, is He important? While this seems like a question with a stridently self-evident answer, in fact, the failure to ask that question seriously is one of the reasons why so many people are not His followers-they havenít sufficiently reflected on that question and the implications of its answer. To understand fully the importance of the Eucharist requires that we first understand fully the importance of the Lord Jesus Himself. How important, then, is the Lord Jesus? To answer this, we again turn to the Holy Father. He begins his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, with this crucial line: "The Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history." (1:1). Several comments can be made about this statement:
> Here the Holy Father demonstrates his absolute Christocentricity.
> To state that the Lord Jesus is the center of the Universe speaks to His essential role in relation to the whole of creation. (The Holy Father develops this further in his Theology of the Body.)
> Notice, the Lord Jesus is not the center of merely Christian history, or history from a Christian perspective, but "the center..of history," period.
Later in the encyclical Redepmtor Hominis, the Holy Father poses a related question concerning what we should do to bring us closer to the Triune God. He responds to this:
To this question... a fundamental and essential response must be given. Our response must be: Our spirit is set in one direction, the only direction for our intellect, will and heart is-towards Christ our Redeemer, towards Christ, the Redeemer of man. We wish to look towards Him-because there is salvation in no one else but Him, the Son of God- repeating what Peter said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Let us take some time and reflect on the importance of the Lord Jesus in our lives, and ask ourselves, if we state that He is supremely important to us, are we actually spending the time with Him that would indicate that it really is true?