Eucharist should be focus of Lenten season

Published: February 12, 2005

At the time this article was written, Father James P. West was the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock.

By Father James P. West

As Ash Wednesday approached in 2004, so many Catholic Americans were anxiously awaiting the release of Mel Gibson’s epic portrayal of the final moments of our Lord’s earthly life. The whole of the Lenten season last year seemed to be marked by this movie, so much so that whole theaters were being rented by various Catholic and non-Catholic groups.

There was something exciting about Lent last year, and for those who saw the movie, Lent 2004 became a Lent to remember. It may seem to us that this year’s Lenten season cannot compare with that one, that there is nothing equivalent to “The Passion of the Christ” to give this year’s Lent a character all its own. That position, while understandable, cannot truly be maintained when we look carefully at the Church’s focus at this moment.

Our Holy Father has designated a special Year of the Eucharist from October 2004 until October of this year. As with all things, we must carefully avoid the tendency to forget. We must keep the Eucharistic Year as a vital part of our daily lives. How sad it would be if the initial enthusiasm for the Year of the Eucharist had already died within us, if it failed to last even as long as the New Year’s resolutions which seem to have been cast aside so long ago. This Lent must be a Lent of the Eucharist in our devotional lives.

During the Lenten season we ought to participate in the weekly parish devotion of the Stations of the Cross.

This can be achieved in various ways. For one thing, for those who have access to a perpetual adoration chapel, but have not committed to a regular time of adoration, now should be the time to do so. Such a Lenten commitment would not only strengthen the spiritual life in the short-term, but would also continue beyond Lent for the perpetual uplifting of the soul well into the future. Those without access to eucharistic adoration might perhaps commit to regular visitation to their parish church for personal prayer before the tabernacle of our Lord.

During the Lenten season we ought to participate in the weekly parish devotion of the Stations of the Cross. We ought to offer a personal prayer of thanksgiving, as we consider that the very same Lord Jesus whose suffering and death are commemorated in this devotion is present to us in the Eucharist.

As we attend the Mass and hear the priest say, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” we must know that we are looking upon the very same Christ who walked that Way of the Cross so long ago. He who suffered so much for us, who died and rose again, is truly and physically with us still in this marvelous and most mystical sacrament. The Eucharistic Year provides us with a particular focus for this year’s season of Lent. We are reminded by this special Eucharistic Year that we cannot look upon the events of our salvation as ancient history. Nor do we have to look into the history books even to find the Lord Jesus. To look upon the Eucharist is truly to look upon the Lord of Lent and Easter.

May this Lent be transformed by our knowledge that to find the Lord Jesus, we need only to find the holy Eucharist. “I will not leave you abandoned,” the Lord promised us. That promise has been fulfilled.