His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity
What a wonderful weekend we have each year, occurring right in the middle of our Easter season, and that is the reception of First Holy Communion by the young people of our parish. We are encouraged to remember and celebrate the day we became children of God; the day we were Baptized into the Catholic Church. Certainly, that is a day for which we must be most thankful. However, I am equally thankful for the day that I made my First Communion and became privileged to receive our Merciful Savior, Jesus Christ… His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Reflecting back to the day of my First Communion, I am aware of several things. One was, that while I now had the honor of going to the altar rail with my mother, father and two sisters, and receive Him on my tongue with all the others in church, it was made very clear that we all were required to be in the purified state of grace…free from having committed any gravely sinful action.
As I matured, moving on to high school religion classes and then college theology classes, I became familiar with the Gospel of St. John, and the emphasis he placed in Chapter 6 of his Gospel, on how critically important it was for us to believe in… and partake in, receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. Within Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, verses 22 through 59 are now referred to as “The Bread of Life Discourse”. Two weeks ago, from Tuesday May 7th through Friday, May 10th, our daily Mass Gospel readings related this discourse of our Lord. In those four-day Gospel readings, our Lord emphasized beyond any doubt the ultimate importance of receiving His Body and Blood.
He does this by providing an answer to the question posed by the quarreling Jews: “How can this man give us His Flesh to eat?” Jesus’s response was: “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life within you. 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. Unlike your ancestors, who ate and still died, whoever eats this Bread will live forever.”
This is the compelling truth at the very epicenter of our Catholic Faith. His Real Presence! Each year this First Holy Communion celebration in our parish should provide us with a reminder to assess our own faith, and our own belief, and blend that in with St. Paul’s severe caution… “Whomever receives the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily, brings condemnation upon himself.” It is referred to elsewhere in the Bible as being the “Unforgivable Sin” and the “Sin against the Holy Spirit”. His Real Presence in the Eucharist is the greatest gift our Lord provided us. It is meant to carry us until the day of His return. That is do not come forward to receive him when we are not in the State of Grace. The priest may not know it but the one you are receiving, Jesus Himself, beyond any doubt knows the state of your soul. If you are not already in the habit of making a regular confession, at least monthly, give serious thought to bringing peace into your life by making confession and regular Communion an integral part of your life… and, by your example, a part of your children’s lives as well.
I would like to touch briefly as I do each year on things we adults… parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles… can do to enhance our own belief, awareness and reverence for the central teaching of Jesus… His Real Presence. You can all begin by making it a point to attend the first of four Sunday-evening presentations by our Eucharistic Adoration team of “Presence-The Mystery of the Eucharist.” For four weeks, this will take place starting this Sunday evening, May 19th, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM in Haryasz Hall. You will this video-based program thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring.
Once a year at this First Communion time I like to remind all of us, of some of the tenets of Our Faith. It’s a fact that is underwritten by several “Pew Research Forum” that revealed that 45 to 50% of Catholics did not know the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. So, if it is difficult for these adults, you can just imagine the difficulty in comprehending this miraculous transubstantiation for our grade school age children. As we have heard quite frequently, the primary responsibility for teaching the Faith, accrues to the parents and/or guardians. But I will not shirk my responsibility as pastor, to do my best to improve our comprehension and understanding. My primary concern is, for that knowledge to reflect in an increase in the belief in, and the reverence and respect for… that Real Presence of God in the Eucharist. I think we know, that if the parents doubt this central teaching of Jesus, there is a very slight chance that their children will embrace it. What we do speaks so much louder than what we say!
If you do not believe in, or have doubts about, the Real Presence, please give me a chance to provide some compelling logic and facts in answer to your specific reasons for doubt. For those who do believe, let us start with things we can do to enhance the awe and respect due to our Lord and Savior, who is here among us in the Eucharist.
1.) Let’s start with striving for a heightened awareness of God’s continual presence in the hosts reserved in His beautiful Tabernacle. Whenever you enter the Nave (the main body of the Church) and/or the Totus Tuus Adoration Chapel, cross yourself, genuflect (if able) before entering your pew, and maintain prayerful silence.
2.) When you come to receive Holy Communion, in silence (and avoiding any kind of visual distraction or greeting) focus on the fact you are complying with the exhortations Jesus gave us…”to eat and drink His Body and Blood”. I like to liken that time of reception, to the awe-filled and glorious encounter that will take place with our merciful Savior on the day of judgement, at the end of our earthly life.
3.) Make your mode of receiving the host, the most reverent that you can possibly achieve. An indult was granted for use of a compromise mode that was petitioned for (to the Vatican), by a small group of American bishops in the 1970’s, to allow Communion to be received in the Hand (in addition to the “Norm of on the tongue”); and also allowed the posture of standing (in addition to the Norm of kneeling), and has unfortunately spawned much more casualness and distractedness. Of course, for that 50% of attendees that don’t believe that it is the Real Presence of Christ, there won’t be any reverence at all.
4.) After receiving Communion, with great reverence, continue to avoid any temporal distractions or greetings on the way back to your pew. Keep mindful that you are now, in a most special way, united to His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Prayerfully communicate with Him in faithful belief.
5.) Consider praying this “Pardon Prayer” given to the children at Fatima by an angel:
“My, God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee!
I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee”.
And now…please Pray this prayer with me.
“Lord, I Do believe…help me in my unbelief.”
Yours in the loving Real Presence of our Savior.