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The Night Jesus Went Missing

October 15th, 2013by Fr. Dave Endres

TabernacleA few years ago when I was at my previous assignment in Dayton, at about 10 o’clock at night a young woman came to the rectory door. She was very upset – almost to tears. She had gone over to the chapel adjacent to the church (which is available 24 hours a day for prayer and adoration) and was distraught to find that the tabernacle was missing!

My first thought was that someone had gained access to the chapel and taken the tabernacle to see what they could get from a scrap yard. One of the other priests at the parish left to go investigate and I made a phone call to our business manager– if there was an explanation for the disappearance, she would know. Business managers and parish secretaries always know everything . . .

She did have an explanation.  The tabernacle had been moved to a nearby room because the carpets in the chapel were being cleaned. There was no theft, everything was fine.

But during that moment of uncertainty about what had happened– I felt a strange combination of emotions — fear, anger, emptiness. Yet as I reflected back, those emotions made perfect sense. What that young woman was reacting to, what the other priest and I were reacting to wasn’t the fear of having lost a thing, an object – but the fear of having lost, having disrespected a PERSON – the Lord Jesus.

A tabernacle as beautiful as it is – is simply metal. A tabernacle can be replaced. After all it is in the end, simply a thing, an object. But that which the tabernacle holds is an inexhaustible treasure – the person of Jesus Christ – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

At every Mass we celebrate that at the Last Supper, Christ left us his very self. Not a memorial, not a symbol, but his very person.

And more than anything else, the Eucharistic Lord wants a relationship with us – person to person.  And the intimacy of that relationship is meant to be felt especially when we receive Him under the appearance of bread and wine.

The challenge for each of us is to value this gift. It can be easy to feel distant from the Lord, to receive communion mechanically and out of habit. The next time you receive communion may it be an opportunity to rekindle your love and devotion to our Eucharistic Lord. Receive Him not as a thing, but as a person, a person who wants a relationship with you.

The Lord gave us this enduring sacrament because He wants to feed us, nourish us, and grow in relationship with each one of us. But we must have our eyes, hearts, and minds open to receive Him.

Photo credit: D. Endres photo; Used with permission

Fr. Dave Endres

Fr. David J. Endres is assistant professor of church history and historical theology at Mount St. Marys Seminary/Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati.