Today is celebrated as the Ascension of Our Lord in many churches (40 days after Easter). The Catholic lectionary gives two options for the second reading, one of which may be Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23:
Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,
a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.
Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,
as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary
with blood that is not his own;
if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly
from the foundation of the world.
But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages
to take away sin by his sacrifice.
Just as it is appointed that men and women die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ,
offered once to take away the sins of many,
will appear a second time, not to take away sin
but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since through the blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil,
that is, his flesh,
and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.
The author of the epistle directs our attention above, to Christ ministering in the heavenly sanctuary, where he intercedes on our behalf, and from whence he shall come again.
He knows of Jesus’ promises, “I am with you to the end of the world,” and “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” But he doesn’t say, “Look to Jesus in your midst.” He doesn’t say, “Look to Jesus in your heart.” He says, “Look above.”
In John 14-16, Jesus said he was leaving to prepare a place for us, and would come again. “It is better for you if I go,” he said, “because if I go, the Father will send you another advocate, a comforter, the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is our means of communion with the Father and the Son now, in the interim, while Jesus is absent. This is what reconciles Jesus’ statements of his absence with the promise that he wouldn’t leave us.
Now, would Jesus have spoken in this way if he had intended to remain here with a physical presence? Would Jesus have directed us to heaven, where he interecedes, if he had intended to be available in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle? Is it any wonder that talk of Jesus’ heavenly ministry and of his second coming is virtually absent in those churches which teach Jesus’ physical presence in the Eucharist? Why look above, if you have him here? Why expect him in the future, if he is here already?
The implications of this have been followed through by Catholic apocalypticists, who do not expect a return of Christ, but instead a fuller manifestation of himself through the Eucharist–perhaps even apparitions of his bodily form– culminating in a “Eucharistic reign of Christ” that will lead to a period of peace. See the links in this post. I think it is likely that we will hear of such apparitions, and maybe will experience wonders such as those predicted–but it won’t be Christ who is manifesting himself. Jesus’ teaching on his return is clear. He says in Matthew 24:24ff:
If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. So if they say to you, ‘He is in the desert,’ do not go out there; if they say, ‘He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Don’t look for Jesus in inner rooms or apparitions–look up, to the heavens, where he now intercedes. Look up to the clouds, from whence he will come.