by Emily B.
Posted on July 14, 2016 | COMMENT
I remember the exact moment when the Eucharist became real to me. I grew up in a Catholic family, going to Mass every Sunday and fulfilling my obligations in the Church. But, as many cradle Catholics can relate to, I didn’t understand the reality and power of the Holy Eucharist and so going to Mass seemed more of something to check off my list than a mystery to behold.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I experienced the power of the Eucharist as the actual reality and presence of Our Lord. It was in front of the Lord in the Eucharist at a high school Catholic youth conference, adoring Him with 3,000 other high school students, that I realized that the Eucharist isn’t a metaphor. It isn’t a symbol. It isn’t something that makes us remember the Last Supper. It is Christ. I knelt on the concrete floor, crying my eyes out, wondering how I missed this incredible gift for so long. How could I have taken this for granted? That God actually gives His whole entire self to me every Mass and I received Him with such ingratitude, such lack of faith that my stomach hurt remembering the many Masses in which I received Jesus and spent the rest of Mass watching the communion line for my friends and judging outfits.
I have taught a summer catechetical program for children for the past two years and the greatest gift I have received from those four months has been experiencing the childlike faith of the kids, especially their innocent wonder and awe of the presence of God in the Eucharist. Every Thursday we would take the kids to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We would explain to them that Jesus was right there in the monstrance and that He wanted to tell them all something special. I remember them exclaiming, “That’s Jesus right there?!!” They would squeal with excitement and then with innocent piety, pray such simple yet profound prayers that made my heart burst. How beautiful is it that children can see so clearly God’s love and have such awe for the mystery of our faith! So often we lose sight of this beautiful gift. It is at these moments in my life that I remember the pure joy of first graders adoring Jesus in the Eucharist and then running back to class telling everyone in the hallway that they “just saw Jesus and it was AWESOME!”
The most heart wrenching realization is that we can never, ever deserve the Eucharist. No matter how many confessions, how holy a life we live, we can never do anything to deserve the gift of Christ Himself come down from heaven to dwell among us in the form of humble bread and wine. And even more than that, He desires to actually come into our hearts! I heard a wonderful homily in which Father explained that when we eat normal food, the food becomes a part of us. However, when we consume the Eucharist, we become like Jesus. We are consumed by the very thing we are consuming. How beautiful!
The question in our lives is, since God has given us such a wonderful gift, how do we receive this gift and return it? How can we possibly dare to receive a gift we can never possibly deserve? The true beauty of the gift of Christ in the Eucharist is that He does not expect us to deserve it. He doesn’t want us to spend our whole lives preparing ourselves to receive the Eucharist. The Eucharist is our means to holiness! Only with the nourishment of Christ in the Holy Eucharist can we be holy. The closest we can ever get to anything is to actually have it inside of our bodies, and so the more often we receive the Eucharist, the closer we can grow to Christ. The closer we come to Christ, the more we know Him and can imitate Him. We can never hope to become holy without the nourishment of the Eucharist. It is the source of all the graces in our lives and it is the summit that leads to all we can ever aspire.
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote a great deal about the idea of Christ dwelling in her soul. She says, “It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth, since heaven is God and God is in my soul.”1 When we receive the Eucharist, our soul becomes a heaven for Christ, a place where He can lay His Head. Our challenge is to make our souls holy so that He may find a resting place there and not a place stained with sin. In a world filled with sin and despair, it is so rare for Christ to find such a place of repose. It is by regular and worthy reception of the Body of Christ that our souls will be made clean and we can create a place for Christ to humbly dwell within us.
In the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist, we have no reason to doubt His unending love for us because He gives Himself fully and completely to us every single time we receive Him, even though we are unworthy. I find solace in the fact that all those years that I received Christ without understanding the gift He was giving to me, He still gave me everything. He didn’t withhold Himself because He knew I didn’t get it. Thomas Merton once said, “And I tell you there is a power that goes forth from that Sacrament, a power of light and truth, even into the hearts of those who have heard nothing of Him and seem incapable of belief.”2 Christ’s presence in the Eucharist reaches even to those who do not yet know Him.
Jesus’ Sacred Heart is on fire with love for us. He thirsts for us to know Him and He holds nothing back from us. He wants nothing more than to give us everything and to dwell within us, and because of this He gives us every day the greatest gift the world has ever known: the Holy Eucharist.
There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.
- St. John Vianney
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Emily was the 5th Place winner of the Veils by Lily Real Presence Essay Contest.
- I Have Found God: Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, 51.
- Seven Storey Mountain, 2.