For the past four weeks, the Church has drawn our attention to significant post-resurrection events at the core of the Christian faith. It started when we reflected on the feast of the Ascension when Jesus was taken up to heaven and is now seated at the Father’s right hand for all eternity. At that time, he promised his disciples that he would not leave them orphans and promised that the divine presence would continue with the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
In a sense, Pentecost can be seen as a reverse Christmas. The Incarnation is the eternal Word becoming flesh, human flesh. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, their human flesh was filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling them and everyone who receives the Spirit to become adopted sons and daughters of God. At Christmas, God takes on the human cause as His own. At Pentecost, we take on God’s cause as our own through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Last week, we pondered the great mystery of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and their relationship with one another while remaining one God. Although a comprehensive understanding of the Trinity is impossible for mere mortals, the notion of the relationship between the three persons of the Godhead is knowable. Moreover, human beings are created in the Trinity’s image, revealing that relationships are fundamental to every human being.
These feasts highlight God’s endless love and will to be intimate with his creatures. Today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus is no different. A personal God who chooses to be with His people not in some symbolic or distant manner but rather to be with His people in a definite and physical way through the Eucharist. Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity are present to his people as “true food” and “true drink.” So important is the Eucharist to the believers that the Second Vatican Council declared it is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life.
Jesus assures us, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” The concrete promise of Christ is to make the divine assessable to everyone who believes. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” The conjoining of the divine and human is what the Eucharist is all about, and the elevation of the human to the sacred is what salvation is all about.
We may receive the Eucharist weekly or even daily for many years. Our frail humanity cannot begin to appreciate this great sacrament’s grandeur and benefit in our spiritual life. But the individual remembrance is not the important thing; what is essential is that we realize that every time we receive Christ reverently, we become more like him, and in becoming more like him, the distance between God and ourselves diminishes. The change in us sometimes becomes imperceptible as the Sundays fly by one after another. But just as any graduate can attest, they are not the same person they were when they started their studies. Similarly, those who receive the Eucharist regularly are not the same person they were years ago because Christ is living in them, and their life is changing.
Take a step back and reflect and give thanks for such a great gift. The thanksgiving and joy are the knowledge and peaceful serenity that God wants to remain with us by feeding and strengthening us throughout the earthly journey. The Holy Eucharist can be seen as a type of viaticum, the food we need for the long journey to our true life’s goal–eternity. In the Eucharist, Jesus accompanies us and strengthens us to desire, more than ever, life in God. The reception of the Eucharist opens our hearts to an entirely new reality.
St. Pope Paul VI summarizes the gift of the Eucharist in this way, “At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His Death and Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”