“The Church draws her life from the Eucharist.” With these words, St. Pope John Paul II began his last Encyclical on the Life of the Eucharist in Relationship to the Church. This simple statement has so many implications for our lives.
To fully understand this teaching, we must begin with a proper understanding of the Eucharist. As Church, we believe that the Eucharist is the true presence of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, body, soul, and divinity. Think about that … Jesus Christ is present through his Church – in the Eucharist.
In every Mass, the simple elements of bread and wine are transformed (transubstantiation) into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
The love of God for you and me and for the world is on full display in each and every celebration of the Eucharist. God’s love created all of creation. God’s love sent his own Son, Jesus Christ into the world through the Incarnation so the invisible God might be made visible. Jesus Christ, as God and man, lived among us, ministered and taught the Gospel, and poured out his love through his passion, death and resurrection (Paschal Mystery.) That this love of God, through Jesus Christ might remain with us, Jesus established the Church.
Notice how the love of God is on mission, continually going out of self, giving self, in love to others. This is the nature of God; love. This is the nature of Jesus’ life, who poured forth his love upon us, through the Incarnation, life and ministry, and most especially through his death upon the cross. “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist.”
Thus, the nature of the Church (and each of her members) is to be on mission, continually going out of self, giving self, in love to others.
Are you a member of the Church? Then you are a member of Christ’s Body. Are you a member of the Church? Then you are to draw your life from Christ, through the Eucharist. Are you a member of the Church? Then you are to be on mission, continually going out of self, giving your self, in love to others.
We can all agree, the world can use more love, respect, compassion, and understanding. But, can we also see the connection between the needs of our world and the gift that is freely given and readily available to each of us in the Eucharist? If only more Catholics would open their hearts to this precious gift of Jesus – the gift of himself to us in each celebration of the Eucharist. If more Catholics would only be willing to make the Eucharist – the Church – Jesus a top priority each week by receiving him each Sunday at Mass.
This is also a call to conversion. First of all, to a greater openness to Christ, to receive the precious gift of his presence and life in the Eucharist – through the Church. Secondly, it is a call to humbly reflect where we are called to deeper conversion of life, so that our life may participate more fully in the life of Christ – on mission, continually going out of self, giving your self, in love to others.
Listen to the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel as the Church celebrates this beautiful solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (John 6: 51-58)
This is not symbolic language, nor is it veiled or vague. Jesus gives us his flesh and blood so that his life may be in us, and that we may gain eternal life.
On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, may we open our lives to Jesus Christ. Let us receive Jesus faithfully and regularly in the Eucharist – in the Body of Christ, the Church. May our love for Christ be genuine and sincere – and fully active. As Dr. John Cavadini said to the US Bishops this week: “Whoever sees the Bridegroom sees the Bride (the Church.)”. Let us grow in the reality that to love Jesus is to love the Church – and to go to Mass faithfully and regularly. To receive Jesus in the Eucharist is to become a member of his Body, the Church. To receive the Love of Christ in the Eucharist, is to participate in the same mission of love – let us be on mission, continually going out of self, giving our self, in love to others.