We live in an age of sound bites, and tweets. When they sound convincing, people latch on to them, sharing and repeating them over and over, regardless if they really understand what they are saying. Short phrases and quotes about the Catholic faith are some of the worst going around. You may have heard this: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect!”
I think it is generally quoted to support those who feel that because of the Church’s “judgment” of their sins that they are unwelcome at the Lord’s table. There is some truth to that, but as is the case with most theological truths…there is so much more.
As Catholics, we hold as central to our belief that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. This is not some vague notion of God being everywhere. Yes, of course, he sees everything and is everywhere. But not in the same way as He is present in the Eucharist, and we believe this, because He said so. Jesus is very clear, beginning in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, in the Bread of Life Discourse. And when He spoke of it, preparing his people for what was to come, he did not whitewash it, nor explain how he would do it, nor did He call back his disciples who walked away from Him, saying it was too much to take. He didn’t say, “No, come back, I didn’t mean it literally. It is just symbolic.” No, he turned to his apostles, and said “Will you too go away?”
When Jesus became man, suffered and died for our sins, he didn’t just save us and leave. And the Holy Bible, the inspired Word of God, determined by the Catholic Church many years later, wasn’t all He left us with. And the Church He established for our benefit, a source of grace, guidance, and authority, wasn’t all either. Jesus loves us so much that He gave us something even more profound, and more beautiful, an act of love around which our entire Catholic faith revolves. It is the Holy Mass. And on Holy Thursday, at the first mass, Jesus expresses to his apostles what he longed to share with them…. His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.
Then he asked his apostles, to “do this in remembrance” of me. Translated it seems to convey a ritual, but why would Jesus “long” to share a ritual? There is a much more profound meaning than that. In these words to the apostles at the Last Supper, Jesus is conveying a personal plea to them and to us. The Lord devised a way, as only He can do, for Him to leave and yet to stay. It is genius. It is an act of pure love. But it is so Jesus, our God, who cannot help Himself, but to love us in this way. And when I ponder this moment with his apostles, I can hear the emotion in His voice, “Remember me. Please do not forget me.” He thought of a way that He could be closer to each of us, than anyone who sat next to Him and heard His words then, and so when you receive the Eucharist, God Himself comes and dwells within you!
I don’t know how anyone who believed in Jesus Christ, and His words, who pondered this thought, letting it sink into their mind, soul and heart, could not be changed forever.
“You want to progress without Holy Communion? But Christian tradition is against you. No longer say the Our Father, since you ask in that prayer for your daily Bread, the Bread you think to do without.” St. Peter Julian Eymard
Catholic or not, are you a Christian who prays the Lord’s prayer? Every time you pray “give us this day our daily bread”, the bread that you are asking for is the Bread of Life that Jesus spoke of. Think on this. Would he just be giving us a prayer to ask for food for our bodies when he told us not to worry about those things? “Do not worry about what you are to eat…” Mt 6:25
It is the food for our souls that we ask for and need. It is Jesus Himself.
“He that eats this bread shall live forever.” John 6:58
In Holy Communion, Jesus takes possession of us. He literally becomes one with us, and makes us His. This is how we become “perfect”. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus said. Have you ever wondered “how can I ever be as perfect as God?” It doesn’t seem at all possible does it? Unless, He acts divinely within us. Then we become but a passive instrument moved and guided by Jesus. And the more we die to our own self-love and will, and allow Jesus to act, the more He can live in us! So the words of St. Paul are more easily understood. “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.”
“As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father, so also the one who feeds on me shall also have life because of me.” John 6:57
This is the Life that makes us acceptable to the Father. Then our actions please Him, because He sees His Divine Son acting in us. But it is our disposition, our union with God, which determines how Jesus can work in us, and through us. This is why Jesus repeats “Abide in me, and I in you.”
This union with the Lord, gives me a dignity like no other creature, consecrates me to Him, and makes me holy. So, going back to “the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect”… If you are in mortal (serious) sin, then you have snuffed out the light of grace in your soul that makes you holy….and you may not receive the Eucharist. The Catholic Church (under the authority of Jesus Christ) forbids it, until you have gone to confess and be absolved of your mortal sins. If you receive the Lord in this state, it is a grave sin in itself, compounding your mortal sin. If you do this, you actually cause the Lord a kind of pain that we cannot even begin to understand. Furthermore, you do NOT receive any grace from that Communion, in fact you just deepen your spiritual darkness.
“God does not judge Christians because they have sinned, but because they do not repent.” St. Niphon of Constantia
The Eucharist is not an entitlement. It is a beautiful gift from God. It is God, and He is the Prize. Do we receive Him casually, indifferently, or with total disregard for the state of our soul, profaning the Majesty and Holiness of God? We should never, ever receive the Eucharist with mortal sin on our soul.
Often after we have first consented to mortal sin, the devil makes us blind to it. So, it is very important to pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten you, really search your heart, find an examination of conscience to review over, and get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
The Catholic Magisterium in the Council of Trent declared: “As of all the sacred mysteries….none can compare with the Eucharist, so likewise for no crime is there heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use by the faithful of that which contains the very Author and Source of holiness…”
Receiving the Holy Eucharist is serious, never something to be taken lightly. To have a “holy fear of God” means to respect the Holiness of God. It is why Moses removed the sandals from his feet when in the presence of the Lord.
So, we must do all we can to make ourselves worthy to receive the Lord, by the means He has given us, but then bow down in humble submission knowing that only He can make us worthy. Then we can open our mouth and heart to receive Him, thank Him, praise Him, and most importantly love Him.
At this time, ask Our Lord to live in you, and let you live in Him. It is in this moment, that Jesus becomes one with you, and through Him you can be made perfect.