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It’s the Mass that matters

by Fr Mark Vickers

With Adoremus imminent, there is a heightened anticipation among delegates preparing for Liverpool and among those who will hold the event in their prayers. Just occasionally, however, one hears the query: ‘A Eucharistic Congress, Adoration? Isn’t that rather old-fashioned?’ So, what is the purpose of the Congress?

I suspect my experience is not unique. Ask children (of almost any age) how we make contact with God, how God makes contact with us, and the response is invariably: ‘Prayer.’ Of course, they are not wrong. But seldom, if ever, does anyone reply: ‘The sacraments, the Eucharist.’ The Congress is a wonderful opportunity to reflect anew on God’s dealings with his people, and how we communicate those afresh to a younger generation. And so it is encouraging to see catechesis and work with children prominent among the workshops offered on the Friday.

‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ We are Christians, we are Catholics, because we know that God entered his creation for pure love of us. In himself, pure spirit, Almighty and All-knowing, he treated us with infinite courtesy and tenderness, coming among us in a stable in Bethlehem. He did so that we might know him, be healed and saved by him, receive his grace. Throughout the Gospels we see those with faith touching, or being touched, by the human body of Jesus, for through it flows the divine power which brings us love and fulfilment. As Jesus told us: ‘I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.’

Two thousand years on, we enjoy the same privilege. In the sacraments, God continues to make use of ordinary, physical things to communicate his divine life to us. ‘I am with you always, even to the end of time.’ Pre-eminently, Jesus makes good his promise in the Eucharist. Here we have his Body and Blood, his Real Presence; here God approaches us, and we approach him; here we receive grace, healing and consolation. Yes, of course, in the reception of Holy Communion. But Christ is not just for an hour on a Sunday. He remains as long as the Eucharistic species remain. He wants us to approach him with love and adoration. St Augustine reminded the early Church: ‘No one eats that flesh unless first he adores … not only do we not sin by adoring, we do sin by not adoring.’

Let us appreciate anew the coherence and beauty of God’s plan: the Incarnation, the sacraments, the Eucharist, Adoration. It is good to join up the Catholic dots. That is the purpose of the Congress: to experience and benefit from God’s loving presence among us.