This is a post I ran in January. In this Lenten season, I feel the need to post it again. In the observance of Lent and in the contemplation of Our Lord's sorrowful passion, we are reminded of just how precious Holy Communion is. I added a photo in the middle of the text.
It has taken me years to understand how the Mass is a sacrifice, not just a remembrance of the Last Supper. And, you know, it is all very simple and very reasonable and real. It took me a while to understand, but I’m glad I finally do!
To be direct, let me put it this way: I know me. And you know you. And since I know me and you know you, then we have to admit that it is indeed a sacrifice for Jesus Christ to leave His Kingdom in Heaven to endure you and me. Would you want to leave the perfect beauty of Heaven to live with you? Would I to live with me?
Let’s review what happens at the Mass itself, and then maybe I can be more clear.
The Mass is well arranged to help us prepare to receive Christ. First, we approach the Lord calling to mind our sins and asking for His mercy. Then we say, “Glory to God in the Highest,” to remind us just how merciful God is to us sinners. As the Mass progresses, we hear from the Old Testament, including the Psalms traditionally attributed to King David, the Acts of the Apostles, and then the Gospel of the Lord itself. (I’d like to add here that the Old Testament is just as Christian as the New Testament. It explains how God prepared a nation into which his Only Son was born. And for this we are to be grateful to the Hebrew nation.)
These first parts of the Mass bring us into the Light of Christ in a humble way and with the best mindset.
Then, in the Creed, we also address that Christ is one hundred percent divine and one hundred percent human. You know, in the Gospel, Christ uses the words “Son of Man.” His is very humble. I can’t help but be moved by the image of Christ, Son of God, standing before the people and saying that He is one of us! How remarkable is it that the perfect form of God chooses to be one of us and love us with all His might! Don’t forget that God has every power to come to this earth in any form, yet He chooses to be human, beginning as we do, as a tiny and helpless babe.
Well, now, this is not the whole story. Christ did something that was never done before, something brand new to humankind. He died for us, he an innocent lamb, to show us exactly what perfect love looks like. He gave His very last drop of blood so we could see and believe.
(The Passion of the Christ)
This love story begins so beautifully. And there is no ending! It is the everlasting covenant.
There is yet one more facet to this amazing story we should all bear in mind. It did not take place in history. It is taking place today. Jesus still exists. His love still exists. His sacrifice is still taking place. He shouldn’t be spoken of in the past tense. He still walks this earth. How so?
Let’s return to the Mass. The altar is prepared for Holy Communion. As the gifts are brought up to the altar, we bring what is in our hearts. We are to give to Jesus our hearts as He is about to give Himself to us. He calls us to be in Him and He is in us.
And then the beauty of Heaven begins. At the Consecration, Christ is now the priest of the Mass and Heaven touches Earth. Did you ever notice how clergy, such as a bishop or the Pope, remove their skull caps while preparing the altar? They are subjugating themselves to Christ. And they now become Christ’s hands. Yes! Heaven is now touching Earth right there before your very eyes through the hands of the priest! Christ tells us in the Gospel that the bread now becomes His Body. And the wine now becomes His Blood. All through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Eucharist. The Invisible Christ.
Jesus is sacrificing Himself all over again for us, as He first did on Calvary. Christ reigns in Heaven, with all the glory of the angels and His Heavenly Father. He reigns in complete love and peace, and yet He chooses to come down from Heaven and be with us...us, crazy mixed up people He will forever love…us, living in this human world. He is here through the priest’s hands. And then He is in us through Holy Communion, the Eucharist.
And so Christ is giving himself to us again and again and again. Every day at every Mass. Think about how many Masses there are each day in the world. Perhaps every hour? Every quarter hour? Every minute? Each and every time the Consecration takes place, Heaven is with us, because its King, Jesus Christ, is with us in the Eucharist.
Make no mistake about it. Do not become confused by what others tell you. When you are receiving the Eucharist at Holy Communion, you are receiving Christ himself. Yes, it is a remembrance, but not just a remembrance. Jesus didn’t say, “Think of this bread as my body.” Or, “This bread is a symbol of my body.” No. Christ said, This IS my body. This IS my blood. The blood of the new and everlasting covenant. The fulfillment of the covenant God the Father made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses and Joshua. And you are receiving that fulfillment from Heaven itself.
Jesus himself instituted the Eucharist. People didn’t just make this up to honor him. The Eucharist is so perfect and reasonable that only God could have come up with this. And it is complete, Christ in His entirety. It is truly divine!
I would doubt that the Twelve Apostles understood what the Lord was saying at the Last Supper. It took quite a while for it all to make sense to them, I should think. It certainly would take a while for me to understand. But their hearts were in the right place. Theirs were with Christ. They came to Him with their hearts…and HE DID THE REST!
Of course, Peter’s denial of Christ certainly didn’t appear as though his heart was in the right place. His fear overwhelmed him, but when Christ appeared to the Apostles after His crucifixion, Peter was elated and began to understand all that Jesus placed in his heart. Jesus then ordained His Apostles during His forty days with them after His Resurrection, Easter Sunday. He instructed them in all they needed to do. I can only imagine how fear must have struck them again when Christ ascended into Heaven, and the Apostles felt they were alone. But, alas, Christ did send the Advocate He promised, and Peter’s heart was moved into action at Pentecost. He and all the apostles knew what to do next.
They didn’t give up their lives for a symbol made with bread and wine. Today, our priests don’t give up careers, family, and the opportunity to give their parents grandchildren for a symbol of bread and wine. Just like the Twelve Apostles, our priests, our modern day Apostles, give their lives to Christ, a deep abiding love. The Twelve Apostles didn’t leave the comforts of their home and family to travel to strange, foreign lands and suffer persecution for a symbol. They loved the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is Christ Himself, whom they love with complete devotion. He is for all generations to receive. And today our priests are living this amazing love story. When they give up marriage, they do not live without love of another. They live in love; love is their life.
At every Mass, at every Holy Communion, you receive the same Christ who touches Peter and calls him the rock upon which He builds His church. You receive the same Christ who heals the lame, who makes the blind see, who raises Lazarus from the dead! This is the same Christ who dies on the cross for you, who is resurrected, who is ascended into Heaven, where he reigns as its King.
Imagine, this all-loving and perfect Christ longs to be with you each and every day, and in a physical way. Not through a symbol, not through just a prayer, but through a physical host that resides in you. IN YOU!! When Jesus hung on the cross, He said, "I thirst." Mother Teresa, now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, had a calling from Christ, during which He placed in her heart the meaning of these two endearing words. He thirsts not for a drink but for us to come to Him. To love as deeply and as abidingly as He loves us. Near His last breath, He is calling us, aching for us. These are the words that sustained Mother Teresa in her work and made her the living saint we all loved. And He gives us Holy Communion so we, too, can physically live with Him and hear His call.
There is no doubt that the Mass is indeed a sacrifice. Without the true presence of Christ, it is a prayer service. Prayer services are good, and prayer will bring you closer to Christ by putting your mind and heart with Our Lord. But a prayer service is not a Mass. A Mass is receiving the physical Christ in His body, blood, soul and divinity. Yes, you are also receiving his soul and divinity, which are the essence of Christ.
Now, as I said: I know me. And you know you. And since I know me and you know you, then we both know that this indeed is a complete sacrifice…to leave Heaven and endure me and you! All out of love and compassion. He is truly crazy about us and devoted to us, His Father’s creation! If you are to be the only person on earth, He will still die for you, so you will understand His deep devotion and seek His Heaven.
Go to Mass. Love Mass. Sit in the front pew so you see only your Christ. Sit in front of the tabernacle. Visit the tabernacle as often as you can. Visit with Christ. You do not need your church to hold Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to do this. Many churches welcome visitors anytime. Also take a few moments after Mass to pray in front of the tabernacle. Don’t just leave after the recessional hymn. You can visit your friends anytime; they will understand. When you are before the tabernacle, give Christ your heart. You don’t need to say anything. He will say it all to you by filling your heart with an understanding and peace that can only reside in love. This is indeed Jesus Christ, Our Lord and King, who reigns with love and compassion. And as Catholics, we receive Him at each and every celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass. God bless.