“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages 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 consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'” (CCC* 1323; Lk 22:19).
Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; … he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. (Jn 6:51, 54). So, validly ordained priests continue to transubstantiate the wheat bread and grape wine into the body and blood of Jesus so that the baptized who do not have mortal sins may eat and have eternal life. The transubstantiation happens during Mass, at consecration, when the priest says the words of Jesus: “This is my body. This is my blood.”
Receiving the body and blood of Jesus, Soul and Divinity, consummates the marriage between Christ and the Church (Rev. 19:7-9) and so, it is referred to as Holy Communion. It unites recipients into the mystical body of Christ, so that Christ is referred to as the Head and husband of the Church (Eph 5:22-25). It communicates the divine DNA to the recipient and by marriage with the heavenly Jesus we acquire citizenship in heaven.
Hence, “the Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body which is the Church.” (CCC 1407)
Since the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from God, Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ increases the communicant’s union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins.
“Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration. ‘To visit the Blessed Sacrament is … a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord’” (CCC 1418; Paul VI, MF 66).
“Having passed from this world to the Father, Christ gives us in the Eucharist the pledge of glory with him. Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints.” (CCC 1419)
We believe in the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist because:
- Jesus promised it after miraculously feeding the 5000. (John 6:51)
- Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist during his Last Supper. (Lk 22:19)
- Jesus commanded his disciples to relive it in his memory. (ibid.)
- “Nothing is impossible for God.” (Mk 10:27)
We explain the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist by: “transubstantiation” which means that the substance of the consecrated bread and wine is changed to the substance of the risen Jesus’ glorified Body and Blood by the action of the Holy Spirit, but its accidents (like color, shape, taste etc.), remain the same.
When we receive his body and blood, we become peripatetic tabernacles carrying the Lord and we are expected to pay uttermost reverence to him and to the other tabernacles where he is found. That is why, even without Mass, the tabernacle remains the point of focus in Catholic Churches.
Holy Communion is the holiest and best gift we can have here on earth. Hence Paul writes: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment.” (1Cor 11:23-29).
We sinned and Christ, an innocent co-creator and King gave up His body and blood to repair for our sins and to feed us as a mother feeds her child with her own blood. What should we do in response? We need to love the Eucharist which is “thanksgiving”. We need to value the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It is to this that the Stations of the Cross lead us.
If we want to follow Christ we have to follow his example of self-giving in service. We have to say with Christ, about our own selves: “This is my body, this is my blood, this is my energy, this is my time, which is given up for you.”
All of us, disciples of Jesus are supposed to become bread to others; others have to feed on us in order to survive. That is to say, we are supposed to sustain others’ lives. This is a kind of eco-system in creation.
As we eat Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, as we eat food, people’s energy, knowledge and time, we should know that we also are supposed to be eaten. If you lose weight or feel exhausted because of serving others, be happy, because that means that they are eating you; you are their bread, you are fulfilling the reason of your being. If you do not want to be eaten do not eat.
Certainly, one who is not ready to become bread to others, one who is not ready to offer his/her time, energy and knowledge to serve others, like in community service, is not yet a true Christian, because a true Christian is ipso facto supposed to be bread to others. God distributed his resources differently so that we may need each other and show love to one another. So, BE BREAD TO OTHERS.
* CCC – Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated daily at all Masses.
First Holy Communion preparation classes are a Diocesan requirement.