Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Jesus the Eucharist:
Center of Our Lives

"The Church and world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Let our adoration never cease." +Pope John Paul II

Do you remember your first Holy Communion?...Can you recall Pope John Paul's celebration of Mass in Camden Yards, in Baltimore, on that beautiful Fall day in 1993?...Do you realize that Jesus is really present, body and blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion that you receive?...Do you remember the controversy the US Navy stirred when it tried to name a nuclear submarine "Corpus Christi"? …Do you really try to receive--frequently and intensely- Jesus in Holy Communion, as the Church recommends? …

I remember, in my early years as a priest, I neither had much veneration for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament or in saying a daily Mass, as the Church encourages priests to do. Then I heard a beautiful talk, by Bishop Fulton Sheen, on the importance of making a daily holy hour ( meditation before Jesus in the Holy Eucharist). Bishop Sheen relates in the talk how he once made a holy hour and then had to climb out a window-the church doors were locked after his entrance-and fell into a coal bin. Later, the housekeeper was stunned to see the prized preacher coated in coal-dust when ringing the rectory door for supper.

Today we celebrate the Solemn Feast of Corpus Christi-the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. He is the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35 ), and is the center of our salvation. Pray: Lord Jesus, we thank You for leaving Heaven, and coming to Earth, to give us a new, and holy birth!...What a blessing we Catholics have, as Bible believers, in receiving the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion. To help us more deeply appreciate this Feast, and Jesus Himself, following, are Ten Important Lessons on the Holy Eucharist:

  1. EUCHARIST AS SACRIFICE - One of the most important points to remember about the Mass today is that it is a sacrifice-the offering to God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, in an unbloody sacrifice, as atonement for our sins. Yes, the Eucharist is a memorial banquet, a sacred meal and a time for community gathering (see # 7 below).

    However, the Church has stressed, thru the ages, its sacrificial nature as most important. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" states: "The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit: [Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer Himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption.

    But because His priesthood was not to end with His death, at the Last Supper "on the night when He was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice by which the bloody sacrifice which He was to accomplish once and for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit" (#1366). Vatican Council II stresses the importance this way: "The Liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed…the fount from which all her power flows…(encouraging us to) take part in the Sacrifice and to eat the Lord's Supper" (#10).

    The Council of Trent states: "Now, in the Mass we find not only the three essential parts of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the sanctification and oblation of the victim, as also the immolation, which is here done mystically, the consecration of the body and that of the blood taking place separately. But we also find the other two parts of the sacrifice: namely the destruction or consumption, and the communion or partaking, of the victim. The destruction or consumption is accomplished by the natural heat of those who receive the consecrated Host. Communion or partaking of the victim consists in the distribution of the Holy Eucharist to the faithful who approach the altar for this purpose."

    Meditation: How can I more fully appreciate Jesus precisely because He has sacrificed His life for me?…Can I really be lukewarm about "going to Mass"?... Can I "attend" more frequently? …If you really and deeply believe it is Jesus giving Himself to you-how will you respond?
  2. ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE - Enter into Mass with gratefulness. We should always be spiritually thankful and appreciative for what Jesus did for us-in the past-- and what He does--in the present, in and thru the Mass. Are you really trying to reflect on His tremendous Gift to you-Jesus, really and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist? St Bernadine of Sienna says: "The last degree of love is when he gave himself to us to be our food; because he gave himself to be united with us in every way, as food and he who takes it are mutually united."

    Meditation: After receiving Holy Communion, instead of giving into the usual distractions, focus yourself and thank Jesus for coming into your heart and soul. Mother Teresa of Calcutta prayed this prayer-"Anima Christi"- each day after Communion: "Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ: inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus: hear me. Within Thy wounds, hide me; in the hour of my death call me, and bid me come unto thee, that I may praise thee forever and ever: Amen." Memorize and then really pray it.
  3. ADORATION - Whether in receiving Jesus in Holy Communion or venerating Him in the tabernacle (the ornate holder of Holy Communion found in all Catholic Churches), how will you go to Jesus and adore Him? Yes, we need to serve and love other people, without question. However, we first need the "spiritual adrenalin" of communion with Jesus to fuel us to do this. This comes by venerating Jesus, especially in the Holy Eucharist. Most saints did this by making: 1) frequent Holy Communion in Mass; and 2) making a "holy hour" or frequent visits to Jesus in churches. How can you do this to love Jesus, and then love your neighbor more?

    The busiest people in the world-Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa-did this on a daily basis, and therein loved others heroically. You may think frequent Mass and prayer is unessential to your life. The saints didn't think so. For them it was a mindful and willful cultivation (with thoughtfulness and feeling) of a love-relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bread of Heaven. This disciplining of desire shaped and trained their souls and made them saints, helping them to fulfill the First Commandment-Love of God, so as to fulfill the Second, Love of Neighbor-"First things First," and the rest follows.

    : Pope John Paul counsels: "The Church and the world have great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation, full of faith…Let our adoration never cease."
  4.  PURITY - We should receive Jesus in Holy Communion with loving, innocent and clean hearts. St Paul counsels us to examine our consciences and be "free of judgment" (I Cor 11:28-30). When you are conscious of mortal sin in your life ( a serious offense, freely and consciously chosen), then refrain from receiving Communion and make a Confession ASAP-but go to Mass. (If you have tried and it is impossible to make a Confession, the Church allows you to receive Communion if you subsequently make a speedy Confession) .

    The Sacrament of Reconciliation is like repairing an inner, spiritual window of your soul, which you have rejected by breaking - and God melding it back together thru absolution--therefore: confess as soon as possible. When you are conscious of venial sin in your life, receive Holy Communion to amend those chosen or in deliberate faults, and your soul-don't stay away! + St. Thomas of Villanova encourages: "What do you fear, O sinner, if you detest your sin? How will he condemn you, who died in order not to condemn you? How will he cast you heaven to seek you at the very time you were flying from him?"  Simply put: Frequent Communion and Confession leads to holiness!
  5. PRAYER - At Mass, we often get distracted when (choose one or all): a baby cries; the wind blows; someone coughs; a dust particle falls on our head… We can easily give into these distractions-incessantly--and discover that, after years of attending Mass, we've made no advances against this spiritual warfare-we're as distracted as before. Recall, now-- and practice--the wise advice given by a priest:

    Repeat the words of the Mass, within, the words just spoken, whether by the Lector reading the words of the Bible; the prayers of the priest in the place of Jesus; or the song-lyrics of the music: embed them interiorly, by sacred repetition and thereby choose mindful participation in the "Mystical Supper" of the Mass. The more you do it the more you will do it. St Ambrose counsels: "Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed His pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts."
  6. PARTICIPATION - We are called to actively participate in the celebration of the Eucharist. This means we must both interiorly and exteriorly enter into the Mass, thru: signing and praying, adoring in holy silence and with words, and by worshipping with our neighbors. Silence and word are both needed. We are also called to actually participate in Jesus' sacrificial death, so as to fulfill St Paul's counsel: "Our old self was crucified with Him so that our sinful body might be done away with" (Rm. 6:6). St. Francis de Sales says: "Why do we not throw ourselves on Jesus Christ, to die on the cross with him who was pleased to die there for the love of us?"

    How can you more mindfully and lovingly enter into Jesus' Sacrifice, and also the particular Mass you are attending? Don't be a "spiritual gawker"-perhaps you can usher or sing, lector or assist the priest at Mass, or pray more deeply in silent adoration, and thereby witness to others.
  7. COMMUNITY AND COMMUNION - These are not opposites, they complement each other: the "horizontality of community" and the "verticality of worshipping God" need to be blended. In the past, some critics say, the Church stressed too much verticality and thereby denigrated communal worship; in the present, the Pope and others say, some overstress community and thereby denigrate the dignity and majesty of the Mass's mystery. We need both elements in a dynamic and perfect blend-- Holy Communion leads to community, the vertical worship leads to horizontal love.

    St. Bonaventure understands Holy Communion introduces and then unites the soul to its divine king, and gives it to taste that wine of love; infuses a well-regulated love, that is just towards itself, charitable towards its neighbor, supreme towards God" St Vincent DePaul once said, after finding out a beggar was at the door of his church where he was praying: "I am leaving Jesus for Jesus."
  8. DIGNITY AND MAJESTY - Do you consider enough what Divine Occasion you are attending? Does the dignity of your thoughts and actions match the majesty of His Love? For instance, consider how you dress-would you dress like this if you were invited to see the Pope or the President? Or: Is your posture and liturgical action worthy of Jesus-are you kneeling in your heart, bowing with love, genuflecting with thankfulness? All these outward actions can help form your inward heart …+"He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56)."

    In Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to the soul, and the soul to Jesus; and this is not a union of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. Hence St. Francis de Sales says: 'In no other action can the Savior be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he annihilates himself, so to say, and reduces himself to food, in order to penetrate our souls, and to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful.' St. John Chrysostom says, that Jesus Christ, through the ardent love which he bore us, desired so to unite himself to us, as to become one and the same thing with us. 'He mingled himself with us, that we might be one thing; for this is the property of those who ardently love.' (St Alphonsus: "The Holy Eucharist" )
  9. MASS AS RE-PRESENTATION - We are called to "spiritually merge," as the Pope counsels us, with the original Sacrifice and Last Supper of Jesus. The historical events occurred long ago and yet they are dynamically and mystically re-presented, by the power, love and infinity of the Holy Spirit, under different forms. The Mass, then, is an access to eternity, a foretaste of Heaven, spiritual solidarity with God, angels and saints. The sacrifice re-presents the offering of Christ to the Heavenly Father. The Council of Trent states, "It is One and the same victim.

    The One that offers sacrifice is the same One who, after having sacrificed himself on the Cross, offers Himself now by the ministry of the priest; there is no difference except in the manner of offering." Thus, we do not re-sacrifice Jesus; this is impossible. No, we partake in His unique sacrifice. He is a priest forever, offering to the Father Himself. The Mass is a "divine window" to His Love…+A priest once counseled deacons approaching priesthood: "Offer the Mass daily, this is what you are ordained to do." …How can you participate in the offering of Mass--There is so much sin to atone for-the Mass is the best, holiest way. Experience and re-experience Jesus Ultimate Love.
  10. EXTENDING GRACES - When Jesus comes to you He asks you to go others: "Go, the Mass is ended, go in peace." How will you bring His graces to those you meet? St. John Chrysostom speaks of the effects of divine love in those souls in which it reigns: "When the love of God has taken possession of a soul, it produces an insatiable desire to work for the beloved; insomuch that however many and however vast the works which she does, and however prolonged the duration of her service, all seems nothing in her eyes and she is afflicted at doing so little for God; and were it permitted her to die and consume herself for him, she would be most happy." ( St. Alphonsus Liguori). Give-generously--as you have received!

"You have tasted the blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother, You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal…God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful." St John Chrysostom

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi