In my previous reflection on the intimacy of the Eucharist
, I started to write about the insidious nature of complacency in the Catholic life, but realized it would be better to explore this topic separately. The fact is that we all have times in our lives when we don’t give the Eucharist the prayerful respect that we should. It’s a part of our fallen nature to not be able to fully recognize God within us, or even to go to the extreme of viewing ourselves as a god.
You’ve heard it said that grace is made available to us when we need it, but that we have to accept it. Grace is offered when we receive the Sacraments, on special feast days, when we’re in a particular personal trial, and even when we’re faced with ordinary temptation. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like it. When I’m tempted, and I mean really tempted, grace doesn’t ride in to save the day and take the temptation away from me. Those moments of serious temptation can be extremely oppressive and leave you feeling like there’s no alternative but to commit that sin just so you won’t have that feeling of the air leaving the room. Accepting grace, however, isn’t about having your problems taken away. Accepting grace is about the strength of character and relationship that emerge when you walk away the victor after a serious standoff with temptation.
There’s no more powerful direct interaction with God in the universe than the Eucharist. When you consider Mary’s acceptance of the Christ child within her, we experience the same reality. Through the Eucharist, we receive the fullness of God coming to live physically within us, and all of the grace that comes along with that physical presence. The sheer intensity of divine presence is enough light to completely blot out the darkness. No evil can withstand the physical presence of God.
Ok, so if we receive the Eucharist and carry Christ within us, why do we commit sin? I find the answer in the Gospel of Mark. “Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,” (7:18) “but what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.” (7:20) Satan’s goal is to provide the temptation to get you to freely choose to commit sin, he cannot do it for you. So in the moment of temptation you have evil exerting pressure on you externally, you have Christ living within you offering to exert overwhelming opposing pressure, but only if through the gift of free will you choose to accept His help.
God is not a genie and He has no interest in being one. He’s a dad. As a father, I don’t want Benedict to get hurt, I don’t want him to fall, I don’t want to hurt his feelings when he sees that he’s disappointed me and I want him to make good choices. Yet, if I don’t discipline him, I’ll have an out of control jerk who will live a miserable life. If I am constantly saving him from every little scrape and fall, he’ll never learn to avoid those things which cause pain, how to manage risk, or how to make a decision. I want a happy, well adjusted son who is able to freely choose to love me. This is exactly how God views us.
When we consider the true power of the Eucharist and the sublime power of having Christ take up residence physically within us, it becomes evident that the Eucharist is not to be discounted. We know why temptation abounds, we are grateful for the gift of free will, and we understand that He’s ready to help us overcome the evil in our lives if only we’ll get out of the way, stop playing God, and let Him be who He is.