The Forgiving and Perfecting Eucharist
It’s easy to fatigue on Catholic cliches. We use them ad nasaum until something beautiful and profound becomes trite. The thing is, while I'm tired of them, I recognize that we need these platitudes. Our faith has truths that surpass our understanding and these turns of phrase bring the mysteries of our faith within our grasp. Although they may be common to us now, they carry within them the beauty of our Catholic faith.
Perhaps no aspect of our faith is more surrounded by maxims than the Eucharist. It's the "source and summit" of our faith and certainly the most challenging for us. Yet, if we believe that the Bible is true, and we listen to the words of Jesus, we can have justified true belief that the Eucharist is truly Him: body, blood, soul, and divinity. The Eucharist is something else in our lives that has become dangerously too common.
We go to Mass on Sunday and a few other Holy Days of Obligation throughout the year, but we let the richness of the sacrifice brush right over us. We tune out, read the bulletin, or think about a million other things that are going on in our lives. When the time comes to receive Communion, we get in line, walk up, and then go back to our pews. The truth is, it's impossible to have a physical interaction with a living God and not be transformed and perfected.
While we may regard Mass as an obligation and nothing more, we need to recognize and understand the raw power that the Eucharist innately contains. If the woman with a hemorrhage was healed simply by touching a small piece of Jesus' cloak, how much more transformed will we be when we receive Jesus' true and full presence within us?
There are two categories of sin: mortal and venial. Mortal sins remove us from the community of the Church, requiring that we gain readmission through a penitent heart and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Hopefully we rarely find ourselves in mortal sin. Venial sins are all of those lesser sins that we commit throughout the day. Like tiny stab wounds, they hurt us, but they won't kill us. The Church teaches that while Reconciliation forgives all sin, the Eucharist forgives venial sins. That's right, the sheer power of physically having the presence of God within you is enough to heal the wounds caused by venial sin. I like to think of it as Jesus in the temple driving out the moneychangers. He enters into us and drives evil out because evil cannot cohabitate with His physical presence. We truly become living tabernacles, God dwelling within the temple of our bodies. Perfection envelopes imperfection. Broken is made whole. We're given a fresh start literally every time we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist.
Beyond just what we receive from the Eucharist, it's also a true union. No one would dispute that in our relationship with God, we're often the beneficiary. We can be, at times, Jesus' hands, feet, and voice to those around us. When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus enters into us, giving us the grace to go out and help those in our world. Truly when we do anything for the "least of these," we do it for Him. We unite bodily with Christ in the Eucharist and, in that way, we also unite our minds and hearts. If we're disposed to it, we can gain a glimpse into His mind and act charitably.
The Eucharist is life changing. We simply cannot walk away unchanged. The degree of the transformation rests solely on our shoulders. If we're open to change, then He will take that opportunity and grace will take root. If we're not, we may not even notice the change because it will be so small. I invite you to think deeper on this reality and to regain your love of the Mass and especially the meaning of the Eucharist. When we're attuned to God's love and plan of salvation through the Church, we'll better understand the paramount importance of the Eucharist. Mass will not be an obligation on a Sunday morning, rather, you just might find yourself getting excited as you get dressed. No one walks away unchanged after receiving the Eucharist. The only question is, how much will you let it change you?