2nd Sunday after Pentecost 7.6.15 The Eucharist
We have just celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi, and today’s Gospel invites further reflection on the theme.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist Christ makes Himself present under the appearance of bread and wine. We then have the chance to receive Him, and adore Him.
We say we ‘receive’ Holy Communion. We do not say we ‘receive’ breakfast. We ‘eat’ breakfast and we ‘receive’ Holy Communion – a subtle shift in language which tells us of a vital difference in the two forms of food.
Ordinary food goes inside us and does what it does. It does not depend on our attitude. But the Bread from Heaven will have different effects on the one who receives it according to spiritual factors. It will benefit us only if we are disposed spiritually to receive Him.
Only Jesus knows the status of each person. He comes as fully as the person is prepared to receive Him.
This is why a sacrilegious Communion will bring no benefit and will actually make the person worse off than before.
So there is a subjective element here. Objectively He is fully present. Subjectively He may be received or denied.
It is as though He stands before us and says: Here I am; do you want Me? How much?
As fully as we are able we can receive. How much good this next Holy Communion will do will depend on my attitude, humility, faith, general desire to please God, etc.
Quantity does not matter with this food. With ordinary food if we had only half a potato for a meal, that would not satisfy. With the Eucharist half a host will do as much good as a hundred hosts.
Yet the physical presence is still vitally important. In recent times, with an emphasis on other things (like community) the attention paid to the actual physical reality of the Eucharist has diminished among Catholics. So we have the scandalous situation of consecrated hosts being left lying around, or vessels used for the Eucharist not being properly purified.
We are vigilant about every particle of this Divine food, on one hand. And on the other hand we realize there is more involved than just the physical, and we work on those fronts too, such as the relationship between each one of us and our Lord.
The physical proximity of the Eucharist is not enough, of itself, to change people. There has to be some other grace working inside the person. There has to be a hunger on the part of the one receiving, a hunger for spiritual growth.
We must have hunger for this food and we must believe in the power it contains.
We cannot achieve holiness on our own. We need all the help we can get. This the Eucharist provides.
It is a process, so we might make a better Communion one day than another; and we hope to improve the whole time.
There is the danger of treating Holy Communion as just another routine. It will not do us much good in such a case.
But then we do not go to the other extreme of receiving only once or twice a year.
We receive frequently but give it full focus. We make each Communion like it was our first and our last.