Last week when we raised up the sacred truth of the Holy Trinity we reflected on why we make the sign of the cross. Today as we raise up the sacred truth of the Holy Eucharist, we might reflect on why we genuflect when we enter a Catholic church. The reason is simple.
We bend our knee or if not able bow in humble recognition of the sacred truth and mystery of the faith that Our Lord is truly present – body and blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares why this special recognition is emphasized. It notes that: “The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by his sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body the Church.”
Our Gospel reading from Mark details how it came to be at the Last Supper, the night before our Lord died for our redemption: “While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.” St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote: “do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.”
When he offers himself as our food and drink, he expresses love at its most intimate. One saint compared our receiving the body and blood of Christ like two pieces of wax melting together, they become one. Another said as we embrace Him in Holy Communion, He embraces us as family, as friend but especially as savior, for he sacrifices his very self for the many.
This element of coming together to share in the paschal banquet has great implications for us. When we receive Him in this way, it increases our union with Christ, separates us from sin, builds unity among the faithful and strengthens our bonds of charity and our commitment to those in need. We are to become more Christ-like.
Just as we need nourishment to live healthy and full physical lives in community, we need nourishment to live healthy and full spiritual lives in community. Each of us has a longing, an emptiness, a grumbling, a hunger that can only be filled by God. Christ’s Church offers us varying forms of spiritual nourishment which allow our hearts to rest in Him. Sacred scripture and the many forms of prayer can nourish us. But Jesus at the Last Supper gave us the most perfect and satisfying spiritual nourishment in the Holy Eucharist.
For those unable to receive Holy Communion because of sickness or separation or other reasons you are invited to make spiritual communions, which unites one in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and with the community in worship and is a profound source of grace and when there is prayer in His presence Christ is there for all.
Sadly many do not believe that or treat this gift of Christ himself as just another optional thing to choose. As many of you know I am an adult convert. It was when I opened my heart to the truth of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist that drew me to the Church. There is the old saying, seeing is believing. For the Holy Eucharist, believing leads to seeing and experiencing God in our midst.
Since I did not receive my first communion until I was 39, I tell children when they receive their first communion how blessed they are to be able to receive our Lord for so many years to come. And that they should approach every Holy Communion as if it is their first. Knowing of this great gift freely offered it baffles me why it is not a priority for so many. How can a golf game or other Sunday diversion which come and go compete with the opportunity to allow Christ to embrace us in this unique way; around the world men and women die for the chance.
This past Thursday I was privileged to bless the chapel and dedicate the altar in the new monastery of the Adoration Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament who dedicate their lives in praying for us all before the Blessed Sacrament. It will be a visual reminder in person and in structure of this core truth of our faith.
As a result of this mutual embrace of God and man in the Eucharist, we are called to share his love with others, to be Christ to others. One writer suggested that once the Apostles were given the Body and Blood of Christ and then the Holy Spirit they had everything they needed to go out into the world and share their personal relationship with our Lord with others and invite them to join them. We too have that tool for evangelization.
A priest was visiting the Holy Land and became friends with a little boy named Joseph, the son of a shepherd who served at his Mass. The man told him how privileged he was to live in the Holy Land where Jesus had lived, where he had walked and breathed. “Doesn’t it make you want to love him more?” said the priest. The boy with wisdom beyond his age responded, “The whole world is now the Holy Land. Wherever we are we are in the land of Jesus.”
Today we are in the Holy Land; for He is present here body and blood, soul and divinity. Our bended knee or bow declares we believe it to be true. O Sacrament most holy, O sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.
Praised be the Blessed Sacrament.