Today we celebrate the greatest act of love the world has ever and can ever know. We celebrate the supremacy of God’s love over that of man. Usually, we give gifts to our love ones at special moments of their lives. This gift is never our very selves because we are not capable of giving ourselves to another. Only Jesus is capable of this height of love; He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist and asks us to partake in it as often as possible. The Eucharist is thanksgiving being the supreme act of Christian gratitude to God. The Eucharist is a Sacrifice. The Mass is a sacramental re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the cross. The Mass re-presents (that is, presents again) the event of the Golgotha in time and space so that we are able to have access to the Golgotha experience. Only at Mass can this re-presentation happen. Therefore, the Mass is not synonymous to any other Church’s service. At such services, prayers could be said but never a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ. Since the Eucharist is a sacrifice, we partake through worship. There is no other spiritual activity in which we worship God as much as we do at Mass. The Mass is the highest form of prayer. The Eucharist is a meal. It was instituted during the course of a meal and in the signs of a meal (bread and wine). Christ himself is the meal as well as the one who prepares the meal. Since the Eucharist is a meal, we partake through consumption. When Jesus gave us His body and His blood, He specifically added “eat” and “drink” respectively. Therefore, if we must fully receive the love of God in the Eucharist, we must not only worship but must also receive Him. This is one area where some Catholics are still lacking.
Experience has shown that barely 40% of youths/adults (10 years and above) approach the Eucharist banquet on Sundays. If receiving Jesus sacramentally was not important; if worshipping Him alone was sufficient, He would not have given Himself to us in form of a meal. Therefore, we do not fully carry out the will of God when we refuse to receive Him sacramentally. Can a child go against the parting words of the father and expect to be happy? Jesus answers this question in Jn.6:53-55: “I am telling you the truth, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 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 in him”. Here, Jesus is not speaking figuratively, for when many of his followers deserted him (Jn.6:60), He maintained His teaching. Let us reflect briefly on Transubstantiation. It is the process whereby the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus at Mass when the words of consecration are pronounced by a validly ordained priest. Transubstantiation is not the sacrament; it is only a process. What changes into Christ’s body is the substance of the bread; and what changes into Christ’s blood is the substance of the wine. The form of bread and the form of wine remains. Thus, the accidentals of bread and those of wine remains such as size, colour, shape, taste, and so on. But they do not become the accidentals of Christ. The whole Christ is contained under each specie and under every part or quantity of each specie. Christ body is not measured or sized according to the measurement or quantity of the species of bread and wine. This implies that when we receive Christ’s body, we have received His blood and vice versa.
Also, in such occasions, where situation may warrant the breaking of the Eucharistic bread because of the unanticipated large number of communicants, it is not the case that half-Jesus is distributed. Beloved, in the Eucharist, Christ is really, truly and substantially present. Pope Paul VI says that the Eucharistic presence is called “real” not because other forms of Christ’s presence are not real, but because in the Eucharist, He is real per excellence. In “Mane NobiscumDomine”, Pope St. John Paul II calls it “a mystery of Presence” because it is the prefect fulfilment of God’s promise to remain with us until the end of time. Being a meal, the Eucharist not only strengthens us in our earthly journey, it also accompanies us in our return to paradise. It is called Viaticum – food for the journey. God wills that all men be saved and we must cooperate in this regard. Hence, it is our duty to call upon the priest whenever someone is sick. The person does not necessarily have to be in the point of death because being a Sacrament of life, the Eucharist could either restore one to earthly life or guide one to eternal life. It is not the last medication for a dying person. However, for us to gain the nourishment of the Eucharistic banquet, we must be in the state of grace. This is easy to understand. Our culture and moral upbringing teaches us to approach our meals with clean hands. To eat with dirty hands is to contaminate oneself. Someone once said “the reason why one who is not in the state of grace should not receive Holy Communion is that, one who is not in the state of grace is considered spiritually dead; dead people cannot eat. For us to eat, we need to first come back to life”. The Sacrament of Reconciliation brings us back to life while the Eucharist sustains this life in us. God Bless You!
• Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke is a priest of the Archdiocese of Benin City.