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Something forgotten?

In recent days, a devout priest shared with me his proposed homily for use this Sunday. His theme: the real presence. Tracing the Church's teaching, his homily is intended to arouse or re-awaken within the listener the awesome reality of the Blessed Sacrament as the incarnation of Christ himself.

He is not alone in his endeavours. For decades priests have debated the reason for the demise of reverence to this reality. Some have concluded that it emanates from an overfamiliarity; facilitated by the accessibility of the sacrament through daily mass. For others, the explanation is to be found in the inability of the so-called educated to accept the Eucharist as anything other than symbolism. In this latter respect, it is said that the celebration of the Eucharist is respected, and participated in, as a symbol and sign. From this perspective, the Eucharist is relegated to the status of a re-enactment; in the manner of a morality play or dramatic work worthy of Chaucer. Perhaps there is an alternative explanation for the demise of Eucharistic devotion and reverence: a sense of licence?

Experience has shown that as human beings we are prone to certain patterns of behaviour and forms of thinking. By inclination, or learned behaviour, we are slow to appreciate the true value of what we have until it is lost to us. Those in pastoral settings will attest to the numerous occasions upon which they have heard bereaved relatives express dismay on this account. However, ingratitude does not travel alone. Its natural counterpart is that of disregard. Ingratitude and disregard combine to form a heady cocktail of licence. All too often, licence fuels a sense of entitlement. The phrase: "give an inch and he'll take a yard" is testament enough to the fact that benevolence and good intentions can be abused. Can such experiences inform our understanding of lack of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament?

In days past, catechesis was conducted upon the basis that participation in the sacraments was a privilege, not a right. Participation in that privilege was in turn, founded upon an understanding of eligibility. In simple terms: it was necessary for the recipient to be 'suitably disposed'.

In our enthusiasm for accessibility, perhaps we have unwittingly devalued or even obscured this dimension from view. The result is seemingly one in which - for some but not all - reception of the blessed sacrament is nothing more than an act of participation in a social event; one in which the need to be seen is a primary motivation. For others, it may be that the reception of the sacrament demonstrates an unthinking participation in an act of communal symbolism.

Whatever the precise reasoning, it may be considered that there is little by way of engagement with the sacramental reality of what is being presented before our eyes. The dignity of the sacrament points to an urgent need for this deficiency to be addressed.

For some, instruction on the character and reality of the sacrament will be new. For others, it will be more in the nature of remembrance of things past. The recovery of something forgotten. Do this in remembrance of me, indeed.

Our Lady seat of Wisdom - pray for us.

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