Do You Want the Eucharist to Revive Your Life?

This article was posted on: April 26, 2024

Here’s what you should know

Here’s what you should know

Perhaps the most common question in the Baltimore Catechism is, “Why did God make me?” Catholics of a certain generation answer quickly and confidently: “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him.”

This three-part answer—knowledge, love and service—forms the heart of Catholic life because it reflects the three-fold way by which Jesus redeemed us. He came to impart knowledge: where we came from (God), where we are going (to God), and how to get there (by, with and through God). He became man to show His love by offering His heart on the cross in order that we might be reconciled with the Father. And He demonstrated His royal kingship by serving the needs of His subjects: feeding them, healing them and leading them.

Our current three-year period of National Eucharistic Revival might likewise be considered according to these three points: What more should we know about the Eucharist? How can we come to love God more in the Blessed Sacrament? Where should we serve others in our own small corner of the world? There’s a certain logic about this order, too: it is difficult to serve someone whom we do not love, and it’s equally challenging to love someone whom we do not know.

This article will focus on three amazing things we ought to know about the Eucharist: its sacrificial character, its glorious Real Presence and the dynamism of holy Communion.

Sacrifice: Not as Painful as You Think?

The Mass is a sacrifice—but what exactly does that mean? “Sacrifice,” Pope Benedict once said, “is a concept that has been buried under the debris of endless misunderstandings.” Many, the pope goes on to say, equate sacrifice with pain, suffering and loss. But even though a sacrifice may be painful and involve a loss on our part, there is something more essential.

Psalm 51 (among many other scriptural texts) provides insight. King David prays: “In sacrifice you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse, my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.” (Ps 51:18-19) In other words, it is the heart of the giver—his very love, will and self—that God wants, and not necessarily the external offerings associated with it.

Please consider the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, and ask yourself what it was that pleased God the Father and won our salvation. Was it the pain and death inflicted on Jesus at our hands? Did these things satisfy God and open the gates of heaven to mankind? According to the Scriptures and Pope Benedict, there was something more. Despite the pain, torture and death, God the Father found in His Son a “humbled, contrite heart” that was entirely turned towards Him.

The Mass is the making-present of Jesus’ act of love from the cross. It is that act of sacrificial love that now takes place on our altar, in our midst. It is also the occasion for us to join our own hearts to Christ’s in sacrifice: our “praise, sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ
and with His total offering.” (CCC #1368)

Know this: God doesn’t want you to suffer; He wants you to experience His love through the heart of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Really Real Presence

Jesus promised us while on earth: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) Christians experience His presence in many ways: in the sacred Scriptures, in the poor, in His Body (the Church), in our prayers and liturgies and sacraments—and in other places, besides. But there is one presence—the Eucharist—that the Church calls “real.”

This adjective isn’t meant to imply that Christ’s presence elsewhere is somehow unreal, but only that His presence in the Blessed Sacrament has qualities about it different from the others. Jesus is surely present “where two or three are gathered” in His name (Mt 18:20)—but what about after we depart each other’s company? He makes Himself present and heard in the proclamation of His word—but where is He when the proclamation ceases? Christ the High Priest is present in the action of the sacramental minister—but what becomes of Him when the minister completes His actions?

Eucharistic presence is different from these. Even after the Mass has ended, the parishioners have departed and the ministers have retired, Christ remains “truly, really and substantially” present. The Person of Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, remains with us—always—“until the end of the age.”

Know this: Jesus is as present to us today as He was to Mary and Joseph, to the apostles in the upper room and to those beneath His cross on Calvary.

Communion: You Are What (Whom) You Eat

There are multiple ways to receive Communion in a legitimate manner. One can choose to receive it on the tongue or in the hand, while standing or kneeling and under the form of bread or wine or both. Regardless of which option one chooses, a commonality among them all must be an interior disposition to be changed—radically changed.

The dynamic of eating or drinking holy Communion is different from the regular eating and drinking we do at other times. When we eat our breakfast, for example, ham and eggs, coffee and toast enter our bodies, are broken down and digested and enter our blood and bones. But when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, it might be truer to say that it is we who are ingested, digested and incorporated into Christ.

St. Augustine seemed to agree: “I am the food of grown men,” he heard Jesus saying to him from the host. “Grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into me.” In our own time, Pope John Paul has taught, “We can say not only that each of us receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 22)

But our incorporation into Christ—and, through Him, our introduction into the heart of the Trinity—is no mere mechanical act. To receive Communion most fruitfully, each of us communicants must be humble, docile and eager to change—no easy feat! That is why, in addition to the gestures and postures the Church employs at this time, she puts the words inspired by the humble Centurion—one ostensibly more powerful than Jesus during our Lord’s time on earth—on our lips: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….”

Know this: for a truly fruitful reception of the Eucharist, it is essential that we first humble ourselves.

An Amazing Conclusion

Some readers will recall the Universal Church’s “Year of the Eucharist” observed from October 2004 to October 2005. St. John Paul II wrote his last encyclical during that year, and he spoke of the “profound amazement” he saw in the Eucharist and of his desire “to rekindle this eucharistic ‘amazement’ by the present Encyclical Letter.” If your experience of the Eucharist has become ordinary, routine or humdrum, begin to revive it through the eyes of the Church. Know that God desires to meet your love in the sacrificed heart of His Son on the altar. Know that He wishes to remain with you always, not only during this period of National Eucharistic Revival but beyond. And know that He loves you so much that He wants to make you His own, incorporating you into His very self. Knowing these truths will help us love the Eucharist more and, inflamed with such love, serve others more readily.

Story by Christopher Carstens, Director of the Office for Sacred Worship
Published in the May/June 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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