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Blog 5: Be Transformed - Abiding Presence

By: Dr. Bob Schuchts

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks

my blood remains in me and 

I in him.

Disconnection Seems Normal

…. Whether we are conscious of experiencing the pain of abandonment or not, it is an inevitable part of our human experience in this fallen world. Ever since that first sin, our relationships with God and one another have been fractured. We live in a world where separation and disconnection are the norm. Many of us can’t identify the feeling of abandonment because it is all we have ever known. We think this is “just the way life is.” We get used to feeling disconnected in our families, at church, and in our daily activities. It just seems normal. 

Created for Communion

Though it may be part of our current reality, it is not what God intended for us from the beginning, or the one he desires for us now and in the future. The Catechism, basing itself on sacred scripture, affirms that we are made for intimate communion with God and one another: “God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” CCC, 221).

In the beginning, Adam and Eve mirrored and participated in the most holy communion of the blessed Trinity. They also enjoyed a profound intimacy with one another, which St. John Paul II refers to as “original unity.”1 In their unbroken bond of love, they did not know the experience of loneliness or abandonment. They experienced God’s abiding presence with them at all times.

Yearning for Intimate Union

Whether we are conscious of it or not, deep down each one of us yearns for this kind of holy intimacy, because it is written into the fabric of our being. The psalmist expresses this longing with poetic beauty: “My soul thirsts for God, the living God” (Ps 42:3). And the saints know of this yearning as well. After years of trying to fill his void in all the wrong places, St. Augustine finally turned his heart to the only real source of his fulfillment. Do you recognize this longing for a greater measure of God’s presence in your own heart? In heaven it will be completely fulfilled. But we don’t have to wait to experience it. We can enter into communion with him now. The Church teaches that this is why Jesus gave us the sacrament of his presence as a means for us to continually abide in him: “The principle fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides In me and I in him’” (CCC, 1391, emphasis added). St. John Paul II adds: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of the presence of Christ, who gives himself to us because he loves us. He loves each one of us in a unique way in our practical daily lives.”

The Early Church

St. Luke’s account from the book of Acts gives us a flavor of how the sacrament of Holy Communion was practiced in the early Church. The apostles lived the reality of Christ’s abiding presence with them and allowed his presence to permeate their community life: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and  no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all” (Acts 4:32–33). 

Koinonia

Most of these activities from the early Church are still common in our worship: the apostles’ teaching (God’s word in the scripture), the breaking of bread (the sacrament of Holy Communion), and prayer (invoking God’s presence and intercession for others). But one element is largely missing in many of our churches—”communal life”. The original in the Greek Is koinonia, which when translated into English, means “communion” or “fellowship.” While we have some small degree of fellowship in our modern communities, it is still a far cry from what the early church practiced. Can we honestly say that most of us are “devoted to communal life” to the degree that the early disciples appeared to be? Can we say we are “one heart and one mind” and that our belongings are not our own but are for the good of our brothers and sisters? Can this be one of the reasons we are not witnessing the “great power” of Jesus resurrection as they did?  

Excerpts from pages 52-54 of Be Transformed.

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