“Certainly that Gospel reading this evening is one that points to the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees denied the resurrection, but Jesus very firmly affirms the resurrection that our God is the God of the living, not the God of the dead and all are called to live eternally with God. That is the vocation of each and every one of us and the ultimate call of our lives is determined by how we live our life. That’s a very important message and I don’t want to minimize that, but I had something else on my heart this week and it flowed from a discussion that we had at the Parish Council on Monday evening and at that meeting the council just reflected on a recent study, a survey that had been done of Catholics in belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and this Pew study, and I realize that any studies can be conditioned by how they word the questions how they put that phrasing in there, but nevertheless the study said that an overwhelming majority of Catholics do not believe the words of Jesus in the Gospel regarding the Eucharist that the majority of Catholics do not believe that it is the body and the blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. That’s alarming. That’s shocking that we do not accept the words of Jesus in the spirit of humble faith. Yes, the Eucharist is not an easy thing for us to understand with our mind, but it is a powerful message that Jesus gives us and it is one that invites us to a deep act of faith that the Eucharist is so much more, and a majority of the Catholics said it was a sign or a symbol, a reminder of Jesus rather than truly being the very body and blood of Christ. Christ gives us this beautiful sacrament and I guess it’s no wonder that so many people absent themselves from the Eucharist or just kind of go through the Eucharist in kind of a perfunctory way if we don’t understand truly the deeper meaning of the Eucharist that the Eucharist is not an object, but rather it is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, ‘The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I’ll raise him up on the last day.’ At the last supper he said, ‘This is my body given over for you. This is the cup of my blood poured out for your. Do this in memory of me.’ In every Eucharist, Jesus transforms that bread and wine to become truly his body and blood. He becomes present, soul and divinity and that is a great mystery of faith and obviously if you read the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel you’ll see how there was a struggle even in the early Church but Jesus was very, very firm and very strong about the belief in accepting the Eucharist as truly his body and his blood. In fact, many left him. They walked away out of disbelief and Jesus didn’t go after them and say, ‘Oh I’m just gonna give you bread and wine. It’s gonna remind you of me.’ No, he let ‘em go and he even turned to the ones who were left and said, ‘Are you gonna leave too?’ And Peter’s the one who spoke up and said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life’ Jesus’ words are of everlasting life because his words are of everlasting love. We really in the Eucharist are confronted with the ultimate mystery of God’s love for each and every one of us personally and it’s accepting the mystery of God’s love for us, that God became human in Jesus. God took on our humanity. He became one with us in the simplicity of that human nature of Christ, but he did so out of love for us for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. God’s love is manifested upon the cross. God’s love is revealed in the resurrection in the promise of eternal life and so we are invited to recognize with Peter: Lord, where else would we go? You truly have the words of eternal life. We have faith and trust in you. And maybe sometimes our prayer has to be very similar to the father who had struggles about his son whether or not the son was gonna be cured and his prayer was, ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief’ that we are called to a continual growth in our faith in the presence of Christ Jesus and in the mystery of his love for that truly is the only way we can understand the Eucharist. Why would the infinite God want to be present to us under what appears as bread and wine but truly as his body and blood, his very self? It is only the mystery of love that is so self-giving that so wants to be with us. Love wants union and that’s what Jesus is saying to us in every Eucharist. ‘I want to be in union with you. I want to be part of your life. I want to be there to grace and to strengthen you. I want to be there in the good times and in the difficult times and I want you to know the power of my love and the salvation that I offer’ That’s the mystery of God’s love for us and it’s approaching the Eucharist is a true act of faith.
St. Faustina in her diary said something that she had experienced in one of her mystical times with Christ and what Jesus said to her in that time, ‘It distresses my heart that so many receive me only as a dead object.’ That’s strong words. So many receive me only as a dead object and sometimes we can go through the Eucharist in that way as if we’re just receiving a thing, a dead object rather than the person of Jesus himself, the person of Christ. It’s not receiving an object, it’s experiencing the reality of the person of Jesus himself, Jesus who died upon the cross and yes who continues to carry his wounds with him in eternity, but the Christ who becomes present upon the altar, the Christ who comes to you and to me under that simple appearance of bread and wine is the risen Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus who is alive today who is vital, who is a person who wants to enter into deep intimacy with us. Belief in the Eucharist is not always easy, but it is to accept the words of Jesus and the God who created this universe, if he wants to become present to us under those simple forms of what would appear as bread and wine, but truly his body and his blood, he certainly is capable of doing so because that is the power that he has and it’s the power of love.
It’s interesting to me as I visit with our second graders as they prepare for first holy communion, I’ll ask them, ‘well what is this?’ They say, ‘It’s the body and the blood of Jesus.’ Second graders know that and then I’ll say, ‘Why do you think Jesus wants to give you his body and his blood?’ And they all know the answer: because he loves me. He loves us. That’s the power of love. That’s what Jesus invites each and every one of us too, to open our minds and our hearts every time we experience him in the Eucharist in Holy Communion. When we say that Amen we say, ‘I believe. I accept. I welcome the person of Jesus Christ into my own body, into my heart, into my life.’ What a tremendous gift we have. One that we can too often perhaps minimize or just take for granted. Jesus is not that dead object. Jesus is alive. He is with us. He embraces us. He calls us to ever greater life here and eternally if we but approach him with humble faith.”