Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

You Are What You Eat

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

I didn't get a chance to post this past Sunday, but cannot pass up the opportunity presented by the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

In a recent post I commented about how God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in His intense love for us desires not only that we should dwell with Him in heaven, but that He should dwell us, here and now, to make our journey to Him not only possible, but sweet.

It is the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the God-man, that makes this possible. The Eucharist is the center and fruit of the liturgy by the same name. The name originally means "Beautiful Thanksgiving," and that is what the Eucharist is. It is Christ in His people thanking His Father. It is the re-presentation of the self-sacrifice and triumphant victory of our great Savior. It is the great act of praise and thanksgiving, of self-sacrifice and humility, that strengthens our union with Him, begun in baptism and perfected in heaven. There is too much to say to say it all, so let me just say one or two things.

The Eucharist is the perfection of every form of love. Receiving it prayerfully, we experience our Blessed Lord's tender affection for us. It manifests his brotherly camaraderie with us, His desire to march alongside us as we go into spiritual battle here on earth. It manifests the jealous, exclusive desire of a husband for his bride, His desire not just to be with or next to, but even to be inside of His bride, you and I, the Church. Ultimately, it manifests our Lord's desire to lay down His life and give Himself to his bride. So storge (affective love), philia (brotherly love), eros (marital love), and agape (charitable love) are all manifest in the Eucharist. Because in the Eucharist it is Christ loving us with His perfect, divine power to love, the Eucharist is the highest act of love that a human being can receive in this lifetime.

The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Son of God, but the Son never acts alone. Whenever the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit acts, all three act together. So it is not just the Son that gives Himself to us, but the entire Deity gives himself to us in this humble act of sacrificial love. The entire Trinity thus makes His dwelling in us. From within us, God works to draw us into Himself. The grace of God not only calls us from without, but impells us from within. Our godly actions arise, then, from God Himself who dwells within, once we have welcomed Him to our home.

St. Paul says that now we see dimly as in a mirror (1 Cor 13:12). The Second Vatican Council teaches that Jesus Christ, by revealing the fullest extent of the Father's love for us, reveals us fully to ourselves (Gaudium et Spes, #22). When we face the Eucharist in adoration and worship, though we cannot clearly see Jesus with our senses, He nonetheless shows us a reflection of ourself. As I face the Eucharist the questions arise in my heart, together with the answers, gently, as a lover whispers: "Am I humble like Him? No. Am I gentle like Him? No. Am I chaste like Him? No. Am I generous like Him? No. Where do I need to grow? Who have I failed to love today? How can I love better?" He does not accuse, but only points out. As the answers present themselves, I am not discouraged and tempted to abandon our Lord, but am encouraged to pursue Him the more fervently. That is how I know it is He who speaks. So my heart gravitates toward Him, and He reveals Himself more and more fully as He reveals me to myself, gently, steadily, lovingly.

It is baptism that incorporates us into Christ, that adds us to His body. But the connection is so tentative because the effects of sin in our life are so powerful. The Eucharist is the chief means that Jesus has given us to strengthen us in our union with Him. That is why we call the act of receiving the Eucharist "Holy Communion." Because our souls are not mere spirits, but embodied spirits, part of a spirit-and-body combo, as it were, God works for us in like manner. Our spiritual sustenance comes to us by material elements. So the Body of Jesus works in us, is absorbed by us, and gradually turns us into itself. The Body of Christ is strengthened as each of its members and parts becomes more Christlike. We are what we eat, and we, the People of God, are the Body of Christ because we eat Christ's Body. In this way, He makes us more like Himself, draws us closer into His loving embrace, and as we are transformed and drawn in, we witness to others, who will follow us as night follows day.

The Eucharist itself is worthy of worship because it is Jesus Christ, no more, no less, no other. Nothing is missing that is essential either to His humanity or to His divinity. It is not merely a gathering of the people, though we do gather for it. It is not merely an act of thanksgiving, though we do thank Him. It is not merely a model of self-sacrifice, although it does teach us to give of ourselves. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself, who personifies in His flesh the act of thanksgiving and self-sacrifice, which is the highest form of praise. As He teaches us to praise God and to give of ourselves, He draws us to Himself and thence to His Father and ours.

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself," John 12:32. Let us then lift up Jesus Christ, bodily present with us as the Sacrament of the Altar, the Sacrament of Love, the Sacrament of Unity, that all men be drawn to Him.

O Sacrament most holy,
O Sacrament divine,
All praise and all thanksgiving
Be every moment Thine.

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