A few years ago, a sixth grade boy was serving morning Mass. Matt usually came barely awake with his hair uncombed. He often forgot to bring me the book at the right times. But he was very talkative. After one Mass, he said, “I don’t understand why people don’t come to Mass. Whenever I receive Communion I get this BIG HAPPINESS inside.”
What did he mean? He gave a simple description of how God dwells in us through the Eucharist. Matt could not understand why anyone would not want to be filled with this “big happiness.” Even when he came half-awake, he was aware of the gift.
Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have LIFE within you” (John 6:53).
Today I would like to reflect with you about this LIFE we receive in the Eucharist. Sometimes adults are numb to the gift. In fact, most of us fail to appreciate the LIFE of the Risen Lord poured out in the Eucharist, or we would be better about telling others about it. When was the last time that you invited someone who has drifted from the Church to come back, especially so that they might receive Communion?
How many youth have ever invited a non-Catholic friend to join the Church because you are so joyful about receiving the Eucharist? How many adults have invited anyone to consider becoming Catholic? Maybe we fail to invite others because we do not really appreciate our faith, especially the Holy Eucharist.
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have LIFE within you” (John 6:53).
The LIFE that Jesus mentions is not normal physical human life. Rather, it is his life….. the life that he received from the Father. So he says, “Just as the LIVING Father sent me and I have LIFE because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have LIFE because of me” (John 6:57).
Here Jesus describes his Father as the “Living Father.” The Living Father is one of my favorite terms for God. As the Creator, he is the source of life. He pulses with life. Jesus had a keen sense of the Father’s life as the strongest power of the universe. His life is stronger than sin or sickness, evil or death.
This is what he felt as he said to Martha whose brother Lazarus had been dead for four days, “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
Jesus felt this LIFE deep in his bones, and he longs to give us this life. “I am the LIVING Bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread with live forever” (John 6:51).
The Bread of the Eucharist is filled with Jesus’ life. When we eat it, it fills us with his power, the power of the Risen Lord. Yes, it has the power to make us live with him forever, in eternity. But it also has the power to make us live like him right now. The earlier Church Fathers emphasized this latter point.
They used the metaphor of how nature transforms lower life forms. Plants assimilate minerals. Likewise, animals eat plants and assimilate their nutrients. The stronger form of life assimilates the weaker. When people eat vegetables or meat, they process the food into nutrients. But the opposite happens when humans eat the life of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. Then we are made into him ….. because he is a higher form of life.
Thus, the Living Bread of the Eucharist forms us into Christ. His LIFE, his goodness, his power over sin….. takes over our body and soul. He gives us his attitude. That is why St. Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians that we can have the same mind as Christ (Phil. 2:5). He transforms our hearts to be like his heart.
This is not just a pious theory, but a practical truth. Here is one story of how I have experienced it. While I was a seminarian, my class was divided. We were judgmental and critical of each other. At one point, I was disgusted with the whole dynamic. I realized how wrong it was to have such an attitude, and I decided to pray for each person at Sunday Mass. I was seated near the front, and as each person came forward for Communion, I prayed for goodness toward each person. Through the Eucharist, I experienced total transformation. I walked out of Mass with a new heart.
The Eucharist makes the Church, as Henri de Lubac said. It heals us of our sins. It reconciles us to one another. It fills us with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks by blood remains in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:56).
Today marvel at the gift of the LIVING BREAD. Thank God for how Christ dwells in you through the Eucharist. Receive him with humble gratitude. Let him transform you.
Where do you struggle with sin? Ask the Lord to free you from the sin of gossip, holding a grudge, lust, pride. In the mystery of the Eucharist, be open to the forgiveness that flows from the cross and the Risen Lord. Don’t EARN it….. just RECEIVE it.
Jesus’ HEALING power is poured out at the Eucharist. It not only forgives sins, but heals our hearts from the effect of sin. We are given his charity ….. to speak like him, instead of gossip ….. to love like him, instead of lust.
As we celebrate the Eucharist today, apply the healing power of Christ to your life.