By Paul Dion, STL
I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; not like the bread that your ancestors ate; they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live forever" (John 6:48-58).
The mystery that these lines brings to us is the mystery of life. At Christmas time we all feel warm and cuddly that there is a Baby Jesus in the Manger. We love Christmas so much because it is so easy to take. It is easy to hug and kiss a new baby. As we travel down the road of the calendar, we hear the story of the Circumcision. The first blood that Jesus shed for us. We go a little bit further and we see Him staying behind from His parents and hanging around in the Temple with the Rabbis.
The event ends well because Joseph and Mary find Him, but we hear her ask, "Don't you know that your father and I been worried about you?" The twelve year old answers back, "Don't you know that I have to be about my Father's work?" He then leaves quietly in their company, goes home to Nazareth where He grew in stature, age and wisdom and was every obedient unto them."
A little later we will hear the story of the wedding at Cana when Mary will once again assert herself and say, "They have run out of wine." He says, "Woman, what is that between you and me?" She has the last word, she tells the servants, "Do everything at He tells you." We then follow Jesus down the road to His passion, death and resurrection.
First Communion opens the door of our understanding of the mystery of Jesus in our lives. We receive First Communion at a time in our lives when we really start to know the difference between right and wrong. We receive First Communion at a time in our lives when we are ready to approach the adults' table at the party, the Eucharistic Banquet. We receive First Communion because we have come to learn that the Bread and the Wine have become the Body and Blood of Jesus.
We have come to know that when we eat of His Flesh and drink of His Blood that we become more Him every time we do it. We have come to know that this is our period of growing into having a life of honor and respect among the faithful who believe in Him. Yes, this is a big stage of the beginning. It is our responsibility to continue growing in the honor and respect that we found on the day of our First Communion.
Next week, more on the Eucharist and what it means in the lives of Catholic Christians.
By Paul Dion, STL
Earlier this week I helped to hear the first confessions of our children at St Mary's. This is the first I've done this, and what a sweet privilege it was! I was meditating not only on the privilege I had to hear these confessions, but on the advantages of first confession at a tender age. Here they are:
- At an early age the child learns that he or she is not perfect
- At the dawning of the age of accountability the child learns that he must be responsible
- Right up front the child learns that God is loving and forgiving
- The little child learns that when things go wrong forgiveness (not cover up) is the answer
- The child steps up to the plate and does something difficult
- In the self examination that is necessary the child begins the life long task of examining his life. (The unexamined life is not worth living)
- He is introduced to the mystery of the sacramental life.
- He begins to understand and accept the mysterious working of grace and providence.
- The grown ups involved are reminded that unless they come like these little first communicants they cannot enter the kingdom
- The little ones remind us that 'little' sins are not necessarily little in God's eyes.
By Dave Armstrong, Envoy Magazine
(Envoy Magazine) - I held aloft a golden chalice, gazing upwards at it, performing one of the central liturgical rituals of the Mass, in which the consecration of the wine takes place. But my attitude was not one of reverence or solemnity. I possessed neither the eyes of faith, nor the traditional Christian understanding of the Blessed Eucharist. I was not standing at an altar, let alone in a church. Nearby, my friend and frequent evangelistic partner was neither kneeling, nor bowing his head, nor making the sign of the cross. He was chuckling.
I wore a mocking, sarcastic scowl, just as I wore a mockingly makeshift priestly robe. I looked as ridiculous as the cowardly lion wearing his “king’s robe” in “The Wizard of Oz,” for I was not a priest, or an ordained clergyman of any sort. I was a non-denominational, Evangelical Protestant, lay missionary. My friend (a former Catholic) and I were making light of the gestures and rituals of a priest saying the Mass. This was in the late 1980s, several years before my surprise 1990 conversion to Catholicism.
My friend took a photograph of this mock liturgy. I still have it. It remains a shameful testament to my former dim comprehension of liturgy and sacramentalism, and to a certain attitude of adolescent silliness when it came to “things Catholic.” It’s an attitude we often see in many of today’s anti-Catholic “ministries” and individuals.
How could I — a serious Christian, with considerable knowledge and appreciation of Church history — have had such an insufficient understanding of the Holy Eucharist: the central focus of Christian worship for fifteen hundred years before the birth of Protestantism? How did I manage to regard liturgy itself as a stale, boring, non-essential “extra” which was by no means necessary to Christian communal fellowship?
Those questions are especially puzzling, because I had a fairly high respect for the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, or Holy Eucharist.
By Fr. Ray Ryland, Coming Home Network (www.chnetwork.org)
One of the post-communion prayers in the Eucharistic liturgy makes this petition: “Lord, by our sharing in the mystery of this Eucharist, let your saving love grow within us. Grant this through Christ our Lord.”
We pray and say things like this so often in our liturgy we tend to take them for granted. Take another and closer look at what Jesus Christ does in this great mystery of the Eucharist.
Start With the Incarnation
Ponder these astounding words from the prologue to the Fourth Gospel: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God...And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth...” (John 1:1, 14a)
Sacred scripture is telling us that Almighty God has become part of the material world. And all for the purpose of working out our salvation through the human nature (body as well a soul) of his divine Son.
Now that Christ has been raised in glory, through his transfigured human nature God mediates to us the salvation Christ has won for us. God acts on us in an intimate, person-to-person way.
Our contact with God is a spiritual reality made possible by god’s grace and by our response to that grace in faith. And so for all persons who have faith in Christ, he makes himself spiritually available to them.
Bur in his infinite love for us, Jesus Christ has chosen to do far more than be simply spiritually available.
In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ Gives Us Direct Contact With His Human Nature
Think of your senses: Hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting. You can hear or see or smell something, but our sense of hearing or seeing or smelling is detached from its object. You are not in direct physical contact with what you hear or see or smell.
Touching is different. We come into direct contact with something by putting our fingers or our hand on that object. Tasting is a form of touching, but with a very great difference. Tasting – eating – actually brings about a union between ourselves and the object of our tasting (eating). What we eat literally becomes part of us.
Now this is deeply significant: the central act of the Catholic religion is an act of feeding on particular food. Jesus wants us to be united with him through faith, of course. But through his Church he has provided for much more intimate contact with himself. He has given us food – the Eucharist – through which he gives us his very self.
At the Last Supper he said of the elements, “this is my body,” “this is my blood.” (Matt. 26:26-28). Jesus Christ gives us himself under forms of bread and wine.
In all the other sacraments, Jesus uses physical means through which he gives us his grace: the water of baptism, the oil of the anointing, and so. But in the Eucharist, the physical means Jesus uses themselves become Jesus Christ himself.
Only God himself could fully explain the miracle of the Eucharist, but the Holy Spirit enables his Church to describe the miracle, in her doctrine of transubstantiation.