| By Bishop Robert Gruss

God wants his people back

Encountering Jesus in the Year of Parish Revival

Have you ever thought about what Jesus’ greatest desire might be, what brings him the greatest joy? Jesus’ whole life and ministry was bringing healing and new life to those who encountered him. Ultimately, his life and ministry culminated on the cross for all of us—the greatest act of love in human history. However, it did not end there. He proclaimed at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) This reality not only happens through the presence of his Holy Spirit, but through his Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

So, what brings Jesus the greatest joy? I believe his greatest joy is you and I, his disciples, receiving him in the Eucharist, whereby we have “communion” with him – his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist brings about the deepest sharing in his divine love, a place of deepest union with God himself, for those who are receptive to such a great gift.

Our Holy Father reflects, “We may not even be aware of it, but every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us. For our part, the possible response — which is also the most demanding asceticism — is, as always, that surrender to this love, that letting ourselves be drawn by him. Indeed, every reception of communion of the Body and Blood of Christ was already desired by him in the Last Supper.”1

“The Liturgy guarantees for us the possibility of such an encounter. For us a vague memory of the Last Supper would do no good. We need to be present at that Supper, to be able to hear his voice, to eat his Body and to drink his Blood. We need Him. In the Eucharist and in all the sacraments we are guaranteed the possibility of encountering the Lord Jesus and of having the power of his Paschal Mystery reach us.”2

We all know people who have not yet returned to Sunday Mass following the end of the COVID pandemic. I frequently hear from people in the Diocese how much they still enjoy watching Mass on the computer or tablet. The most recent Mass counts reveal a decline in Mass attendance of 30 percent. I recently celebrated Mass in one of our rural communities, and though the church was relatively full, there were no families with children in attendance.

While this saddens me, this is why these three years of the Eucharistic Revival are so important for the life of the Church, both nationally and locally. We began the Eucharistic Revival in June 2022 with the diocesan phase. We began phase two, the Eucharistic Revival’s parish year, this past June and it will continue through July 2024. For the Eucharistic Revival to be successful, parishes must fulfill their key role in boldly proclaiming the Gospel. God wants his people back. God wants to bring revival to his Church through a rekindled relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist, and this year this invitation reaches the pews and beyond.

The task of our local parishes in this Year of Parish Revival is to bring their parishioners to a deeper love of Jesus in the Eucharist, and to send them forth to share this love with others – to send them out on mission “for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

The playbook that upholds the movement of Eucharistic revival in the United States contains four pillars: reinvigorate worship, create moments of personal encounter, engage in robust formation and send Catholics forth as missionaries.

In the words of Pope Francis: “The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.’” 3

Therefore, discernment and creativity are necessary to respond to what is already happening in your community, to create conditions and openness for new revival and to establish a Eucharistic culture in your parish that sustains the fruits of this Eucharistic revival.

It is my desire that every parish in the Diocese of Saginaw take seriously this wonderful opportunity that has been placed before us. No matter how old or young we are, no matter where we find ourselves on our faith journey, all of us are in need of constant renewal and are called to bring this renewal to the world.

“Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter him in life.”4 The life of Jesus did not happen years ago; it is something that is still happening now. As Christian disciples, we are called to bring this ever-present Life of God into the world.”

“Let us seize this moment as the great missionary opportunity of our time. When we hear the words, “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” our work as missionary disciples begins anew as we respond to the Lord’s command to “go and make disciples” by the faithful witness of our lives—by reaching out to the lost, the least, and the last. With confidence, let us entrust ourselves to the care and guidance of the Holy Spirit to bring about a Eucharistic Revival at this time in the life of the world!”5

In doing so, we will be fulfilling Jesus’ great joy. Is this not something we should all want to do?

  1. Desiderio Desideravi, no. 6
  2. Desiderio Desideravi, no. 11
  3. Evangelii Gaudium, no. 28
  4. Pope Francis, Homily for the Easter Vigil, April 20, 2019
  5. Resources for the National Eucharistic Revival

Resources for the National Eucharistic Revival may be found at www.eucharisticrevival.org/revival-resources

The Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss is the seventh bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.