Do you have any loved ones who are far from home? Quite often we are separated from the people we love because of jobs or school or military service. When people are separated, they can share their thoughts via letters and email, and they can make phone calls and speak to one another. This keeps the relationship alive and healthy, but the truth is, both parties in the relationship would prefer to be in each other’s presence, to see each other face-to-face.
With loved ones far from home, being in each other’s presence is the summit of joy. We’ve all seen those heart-warming photos and videos of servicemen returning home after many months or even years overseas. The hugs and kisses and tears of joy are profound. The personal relationship is overflowing with love at that moment.
With this in mind, here is an analogy regarding our faith life: it is crucially important to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; all great Christian teachers down thru the centuries have made this clear. In our relationship with Jesus, the Bible is similar to letters and email, as He tells us what is on His mind using His written word. And prayer is similar to phone calls. We speak to the Lord and then He speaks back to us, encouraging us, inspiring us, and guiding us. Both of these methods of communication are good and wonderful, and are very important. But to be honest, in order to make the personal relationship more complete, a face-to-face meeting is necessary.
With our relationship with Jesus, we do have the opportunity to meet Him face-to-face and experience profound joy and love: this opportunity is the Eucharist. Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity. Sadly, far too many Catholics just go through the motions when they receive the Eucharist at Mass. They have lost sight of Who is really present.
Imagine if a soldier came home after being overseas for a year. His wife is picking him up at the airport. When he gets off the plane and walks through the doorway, seeing his wife face-to-face for the first time in 12 months, his heart is overflowing with love and joy. He desires to embrace her in a huge bear hug and let the tears of joy flow freely. But instead, imagine if she just walks up to him and says in an annoyed and hurried voice, “Hi. C’mon, let’s go, we have to beat the traffic.”
When Jesus becomes present in the Eucharist—body and blood, soul and divinity—by virtue of the Spirit of God working through the priest during the prayer of consecration, it is as if He is walking through a doorway after being away. His heart is overflowing with love and joy for each and every one of us. His desire is to hug us in a powerful embrace. He wants His soul to enter into us. He gives us Himself, using the consecrated bread and wine now made flesh and blood. His being becomes a part of our being. Two are made one. It is a co-union, a communion of two souls. It is the wonderful, blessed sacrament, by which the Lord God of the Universe keeps His promise to us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). It is the pinnacle of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When you receive Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass, please don’t say to Him: “Hi. C’mon, let’s go, we have to beat the traffic out of this church parking lot.” That would be such a missed opportunity.