Happy Sabbath! Hold your heads up high Roman Catholics, today you will receive the Holy Eucharist. Your venial sins will be melted away and you will be brought into the closest communion with God that you can experience while on Earth, and why? Because God wants you to. I thank God that I am not Protestant, not because they are not holy, but because I am not holy enough. I do not have the attention, the desire, the spiritual openness, the fervor, the humility, and the patience to achieve the state of grace. No, I am Catholic: I am given the state of grace, and the Giver of Grace Himself.
“If Christ did not want to dismiss the Jews without food in the desert for fear that they would collapse on the way, it was to teach us that it is dangerous to try to get to heaven without the Bread of Heaven.” – St. Jerome
How brilliant of our God to be made bread and wine. He knew that we humans are distracted, fickle creatures. But when the His Body is on our tongues and in our blood, it doesn’t matter if we are feeling dry and empty, miserable and grumpy, doubtful or tired; we have received Him. That’s why I urge anyone suffering with spiritual dryness, doubt, or a lack of emotion to fly to the sacraments. They are here no matter what you’re feeling. Often Catholicism is faulted for being complicated, overly-liturgical and difficult. No: this is as easy as it gets.
The eucharist is the most radical truth we can tell. It’s something that should be whispered in awe and reverence, and proclaimed in joy as well: I eat God. I do. For us American Catholics, that should have special significance. We live in a country where, for hundreds and hundreds of years, human beings were sacrificed to false gods. In Aztec culture, a man would be tied onto an altar, his heart cut out and held up to the sky by a priest, his blood poured and his body cut into pieces and thrown down from the altar. This was done to appease the gods, to make it rain, to bring good crops — none of which happened. Essentially, god ate man. Now I am aware that it is not common practice to take theologically seriously the sacrifice of the Aztecs, but what were they doing wrong? Besides that their acts were evil, the problem was this: the gap between God and man is infinite, and so no number of human sacrifices would bring them into communion with Him. Imagine how their minds were rocked when the Conquistadors came with their Catholic priests. Now man eats God. Now the Aztecs are told that it is the God who was killed, and whose body is upon the altar. It is the very heart of the Most High that is lifted up by the priest. It is His blood that is let out, His body that is broken and taken from the altar to the people yearning for the rain of grace and the crop of salvation. And God the Father is appeased by the sacrifice of His Son, and we are forgiven and brought under his mighty wings once more, because the infinite gap is filled by the infinite God. This mighty turn, this divine reversal of the fortune of the human race is something we are called to participate in.
It is there in His Eucharist that He says to me: “I thirst, thirst for your love, your sacrifices, your sufferings. I thirst for your happiness, for it was to save you that I came into the world, that I suffered and died on the Cross, and in order to console and strengthen you I left you the Eucharist. So you have there all My life, all My tenderness.” – Mother Mary of Jesus, foundress of the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice
Ghandi is famous for saying that if he believed what Catholics believe about the Eucharist, he would crawl on His hands and knees to receive it. His point is powerful, and we should learn from it. Knowing what we know should inspire a reverence in us great enough to shock and scandalize the world. At the same time, I wish I had been there to say to Ghandi, “If we Catholics ourselves fully grasped what we believe about the Eucharist, we would not dare approach it. If we Catholics truly understood the Eucharist, if it was revealed to us in all its glory, there would be a long line of unconscious people leading up to the altar.” God in His mercy comes to us in bread and wine that we might be able to receive Him without dying.
“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
– St. Maximilian Kolbe
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