Christ with us

Oh my God! Jesus Christ! 

How many times do we hear those phrases around us — but we’re not in church? Walking across campus, or in the high school hallways, these names, which we hold to be special and holy and “protected” by the Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s Name in vain,” seem to have just become another exclamation phrase which means little to most. Sort of speech fill-ins like, “um” or “you know.”

My wife and I have taken to calling attention to that phrase in our everyday situations. Many a time when she or I hear the phrase, “Oh my God!” we’ll respond with “where!!!??” “Is He here?” “Where is He?” Of course, our response will often garner a chuckle by those around us, but we hope to make the point. 

As we prepare for Advent in just a few weeks, we are “looking for His coming this Christmas” are we not? The season of Advent turns our minds and thoughts to the commemoration of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. But more importantly, the season of Advent is given to us by the Church not only to prepare ourselves for this Christmas “coming,” but to prepare ourselves to let Jesus into our hearts and minds and to redirect our lives going forward. 

I was thinking, however, that even though we may use this season to better prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming, Christ is truly here now and we often fail to recognize that. 

I recall a priest once speaking at Mass about the coming of Christ at Christmas. He mentioned that we celebrate at this time of year, the coming of Christ in history, the coming of Christ in mystery (at Mass in the Eucharist) and the coming of Christ in majesty (at the end of time).

It was Christ’s coming in mystery that particularly struck me. As I looked around the church I wondered why it wasn’t filled to overflow capacity with people out the doors and into the parking lot. After all, Christ was here, was He not? Why is it that we don’t seem to realize that at the Eucharist, Christ is truly present!

I recall, years ago, a member of a YES! retreat team, that I was directing, gave a Eucharist talk during that particular YES! weekend. What he said those many years ago has come flooding back to me as I thought about what I would write this week. He mentioned in his talk, that a number of years back, the president was going to be visiting the area. There was a great deal of excitement that the President of the United States would be nearby. People flocked from throughout the region to attend this event and the crowds were huge. He then mentioned that this mere human being was able to draw tremendous crowds of people to hear him speak. But on any day, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist at Mass and few are present. Isn’t it odd that we all will rush to see the president or to see a celebrity or singer and yet, the Son of God draws few to daily Mass and to Sunday Masses?

He made the point then, and I hope to make it now, that we as a people may just not get it. Has the Eucharist become so commonplace that we have lost the excitement? Has the Eucharist become so ordinary that we just don’t think about it? Or do we forget or perhaps not believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist? 

Think about it. God is present to us in the breaking of the bread. He is present to us in mystery. True. But those who call ourselves Catholic believe that He is truly present at the Eucharist. Why don’t we as a people flock to “see” Him each time we have an opportunity? It just got me thinking. 

So perhaps, as we prepare during this upcoming Advent season, join me in remembering that we are so fortunate to have Christ so close to us. He’s as close as our hearts, He’s as close as our friends and neighbors, but He’s also physically close to us each time we take the opportunity to visit and receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass. That is truly our “Oh my God” moment and one we should take advantage of often. 

Now each and every time I hear, “Oh my God,” I try to turn that into a little prayer, by giving additional thought to the presence of Christ in my life and pray that I, and those who are not in a close relationship with Christ, will have opportunities to be closer to Him in the Eucharist. I hope you, too, will consider these thoughts and that you, too, may be physically close to Christ now and at the end of time when our human bodies will be resurrected so that we can live in eternity when Christ comes again in majesty.

Please, in the next coming weeks, when you hear someone say “Oh my God!” — join me in thinking, “Where is He?” followed immediately by ‘“Oh yeah, He’s right here! Thank you Lord, Amen!” What could be greater than that?

Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River.

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