A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to teach summer catechism classes to students between the ages of 8 and 10. They had all received their first communion, and I was giving them a tour of their church. While I often found myself pleasantly surprised by how much they knew, I was also disturbed by some of the questions that they asked me. I was most shocked by one particular student who, when I asked the class if they knew that they could go to Mass every day, responded with a very baffled expression, “You mean that you can receive Jesus more than once?” I was shocked. Stunned. And saddened by the lack of knowledge about this central tenant of our incredible faith. Here was a child who joyfully proclaimed that Jesus Christ changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood for us, but did not know that He did this on a regular basis. This poor child did not understand that there are some sacraments that are received only once, such as Baptism and Confirmation, and some that can be received on a much more regular basis, such as Reconciliation and Communion. He thought that all sacraments were one-time occurrences because he had never been taught or told otherwise. The idea that he could receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist more than once in his life baffled him, but the idea also excited him. He knew who he was receiving when he received Holy Communion, but he had never known that he could receive Him again and again, that this Bread of Life was truly everlasting. When I heard this from my student, several things became clear to me, and I found myself mourning the current situation of so many children. They have a passion and love that is incomparable, and they enthusiastically profess their love of Christ and their happiness that He should become bread and wine for them. But many of these children have been insufficiently catechized and are entirely unaware of the fountain of grace that is always available to them.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, and rightfully so. It’s the source: the Eucharist is the driving force behind my every endeavor, the fuel that keeps me going. Nervous about changing jobs? Go to the Eucharist. About to start college this fall? Go to the Eucharist. Planning on having a sit-down talk with a friend or family member about something important? Go to the Eucharist. Jesus Christ, who has given Himself to us to be consumed so He can further unite Himself with us, wants to be the wellspring of life. He is the Bread of Life and the Living Water. He has given Himself to us to be our sustenance for this journey that we call life. Jesus Christ has personally invited each and every one of us to drink deeply of the Living Water and to eat our fill of the Bread from Heaven that He has given us. Scripture says that man was not meant to live on bread alone, but by every word that flows from the mouth of God. Well, now the Word of God has come down from heaven and has transformed earthly bread into His own Body and Blood, and we have been repeatedly invited to partake. The Eucharist is supposed to be our fuel, but so many of us try to climb this mountain when our souls are dangerously near ’empty.’ We were never meant to run on ’empty.’ God wants us to live our lives to the full; He wants to fill us with Himself so that we can reach the summit, so that we can attain heaven, where God longs to unite Himself with us in a whole new way.
In the Eucharist, God and man become one, but the Eucharist is a physical manifestation of the spiritual union that is occurring between God and man in heaven at this very moment. When we participate in Mass on Sunday (or on any other day of the week for that matter), we are participating in the heavenly Liturgy, the heavenly celebration of the final union of God and man, of heaven and earth, which somehow, mysteriously, is both here now and yet to come. Our God is a patient God, who is ready and willing to wait for us to reach out to Him, but He is also a God who is anxious to unite Himself to us. That fact has many consequences. It’s why God created man in the first place, so that He could walk beside him (and her) in the Garden. It’s why He did not abandon man when he fell. It’s why God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, and why the God-man was willing to die on a cross to save us. It’s why He did not just return to Heaven before promising to send us His Spirit. It’s why He found a way to remain with us always, until the end of time (and beyond). It’s why God deigns to come down from heaven in the form of bread and wine that He has transformed into His Body and Blood for man to consume. Man’s history is a love story. It is the story of the spurned Lover who patiently and anxiously waits for His Beloved to return to Him. It is the story of the Lover who longs to be united with His Beloved, and will do anything to make that happen, even die on a cross or become bread and wine to be consumed. You are that loved. You are that wanted. Never forget that.
It saddens me that so many people are not aware of this amazing fact, that so many people go through their entire lives running on ’empty,’ struggling through life, struggling to climb this mountain, but without the necessary fuel. They do not see that God has given us the fuel that we need; this source is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of our life, the wellspring that we are meant to drink from so that we can climb this mountain. We are not supposed to make this journey alone; we are supposed to walk it with God Himself. He wants to be the driving force behind us, always pushing us upwards, towards our ultimate destination. He wants to share this journey with us, walking beside us, sustaining us by uniting Himself to us over and over again. And He wants to be the end towards which we all strive, the hand of the Lover extending over the edge of the mountain summit towards the Beloved to draw her to safety. Jesus Christ wants to be at the beginning, middle, and end of our lives. He will never abandon us, at any point in this journey of life. He will be the source, the Water of Life; the sustenance, the Bread from Heaven; and the summit, the Eternal Bridegroom awaiting His Bride. Will you drink deeply and fill yourself to the point of overflowing with heavenly grace, or will you continue running on ’empty?’ The choice is up to you, but God will always be patiently, and anxiously, waiting for you. Remember: you are loved and wanted.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!