Friday in the Third Week of Easter - 2012
Several years ago a young grammar school student about ready to graduate asked this question during a school Mass homily: "Father, I really don't understand this whole thing about us eating Jesus' body and drinking his blood. Is this a vampire thing?" I was stunned at first by the "vampire thing." However, after a moment or two of silence, I thought to myself: what we are teaching in the Eucharist would naturally be a point of confusion to an 8th grade mind. Imagine what a 4th or 5th grade would think about this Eucharist business.
Adults approach this knowing of Jesus in a different way: "I'd like to see Jesus standing before us each Sunday at Mass. I want to know what he really looks like: how tall is he?, how slim is he?, is he good looking? and so on. We receive him in communion, we say. As St. John Chrysostom wrote: "... you do see him, you touch him, you eat him!"
We know we are not incorporating the "vampire thing" into our religion with this experience of communion. Remember what Jesus said: "Take this and eat of it. This is my body." Surely a piece of bread and a cup of wine do not look like the body and blood of a person, they do not look like a person. Yet, Jesus calls us to believe that in the Eucharist we are fed not by ordinary food such as bread and wine. We are fed by his body and blood. We are nourished by the power of his very being when we receive him in the Eucharist.
The question that we might ask ourselves today is this: "Do I realize that Jesus is truly present, body and blood, in me when I have received the Eucharist?" This we are called to believe. This unique gift is to a a sharing in the divine mystery that is Jesus' gift to us and the Father's gift to us through his Son. Sometimes, as a priest, I, too, have to make myself stop and consider what this mystery gift is to me each time that I am touching the consecrated host and handling a chalice contains the consecrated wine. The Church as always encouraged us to be silent in our hearts not just during the return time to the pew in the church or chapel. Because we are dealing with mystery, we need to give time to speaking with the Lord Jesus after receiving the Eucharist. If for no other reason, we should pray to better understand that we have been given the bread and wine of life! We are at that moment in a unique relationship with Jesus Christ.