Opening your life to the transformational power of Christ in the Eucharist
On the night he was betrayed, he took bread and gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: “Take this, all of you, and eat it:this is my body which will be given up for you.”
When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it:this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me” (Eucharistic Prayer III).
A friend of mine was describing his recent attempt to get off the medication he was taking for anxiety because of the unwanted side effects. But once off the meds he became so anxious that he was driving everyone near him crazy. His family convened a meeting and he agreed to try a lower dose or find a substitute until a longer-term solution could be found.
“I have a substitute for you,” I replied, “go to Confession and receive the Eucharist.” Mark (not his real name) looked at me and said, “you’re serious aren’t you, do you really think that would help?”
“Yep,” I said, knowing that this cradle Catholic had stopped going to Mass about thirty years ago. “Most of us are living like cut flowers disconnected from the source of life and love. We spend our time anxious about how we are going to live, desperately trying to fill the infinite desires of our heart with finite things.”
“Did you know,” I continued, “that Carl Jung, the famous father of psychoanalysis wrote ‘Among all my patients in the second half of life, that is to say over thirty-five, there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers and not one of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”’
“What’s more, Dr. Karl Menninger, the dominant figure in American psychiatry for six decades, said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day.”
It seems that humanity should have caught on to this cosmic story by now. Good versus evil, light versus darkness, love versus lust, and seek the better way that has been revealed to us. Yet somehow we miss the larger story. The result is always the same, an anxious broken heart. But amid our brokenness, and we are all broken in one way or another, comes some very “Good News”! The path to healing which leads to peace, love and happiness can be found.
I call it, “Crossing the Bridge,” opening the smaller story of your life to the transformational power of “connection.” The bottom line is that we were created for eternal life in God, but original sin separated us from the tree of life. It is as though we are left stranded on the bank of a deep, fast-moving river that we cannot cross. We thirst for the peace, happiness and eternal life that is offered to us on the other side, but our broken humanity cannot move any further. We need a Bridge over the Abyss.
Saint Catherine of Siena in her Dialogue heard the Father describe His Son as this living Bridge:
“Wherefore I have told you that I have made a Bridge of My Word, of My only-begotten Son, and this is the truth. I wish that you, My children, should know that the road was broken by the sin and disobedience of Adam, in such a way, that no one could arrive at Eternal Life.
This truth is that I have created man to My own image and similitude, in order that he might have Eternal Life, and might partake of Me, and taste My supreme and eternal sweetness and goodness. But, after sin had closed Heaven and bolted the doors of mercy, the soul of man produced thorns and prickly brambles, and My creature found in himself rebellion against himself.
And the flesh immediately began to war against the Spirit, and, losing the state of innocence, became a foul animal, and all created things rebelled against man, whereas they would have been obedient to him, had he remained in the state in which I had placed him. He, not remaining therein, transgressed My obedience, and merited eternal death in soul and body. And, as soon as he had sinned, a tempestuous flood arose, which ever buffets him with its waves, bringing him weariness and trouble from himself, the devil, and the world. Everyone was drowned in the flood, because no one, with his own justice alone, could arrive at Eternal Life.
It was, therefore, necessary to join human nature with the height of My nature, the Eternal Deity, so that it might be sufficient to satisfy for the whole human race, so that human nature should sustain the punishment, and that the Divine nature, united with the human, should make acceptable the sacrifice of My only Son, offered to Me to take death from you and to give you life.
So the height of the Divinity, humbled to the earth, and joined with your humanity, made the Bridge and reformed the road. Why was this done? In order that man might come to his true happiness with the angels. And observe, that it is not enough, in order that you should have life, that My Son should have made you this Bridge, unless you walk thereon.”
In other words, redemption is collective, but salvation is individual. You have to say yes. We all stand, in a sense, before the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and we must decide. Will we stand on the edge of the abyss with the father of lies? Or will we choose to follow Jesus Christ and pray as He prayed in Gethsemane, “not as I will, but your will be done,” and choose “obedience unto death”?
For this reason the Lord wished to remain with us in the Eucharist, making His presence in meal and sacrifice, the promise of humanity renewed by his love. At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 47).
This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after He had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. What more could Jesus have done for us? Truly, in the Eucharist, He shows us a love which goes “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1), a love which knows no measure (Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 11).
In instituting it, He did not merely say: “This is my body,” “this is my blood,” but went on to add: “which is given for you,” “which is poured out for you” (Lk 22:19-20). Jesus did not simply state that what He was giving them to eat and drink was His body and blood; He also expressed its sacrificial meaning and made sacramentally present his sacrifice which would soon be offered on the Cross for the salvation of all. “The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood” (CCC, 1382, Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 12).
Saint John Chrysostom put it well: “We always offer the same Lamb, not one today and another tomorrow, but always the same one. For this reason the sacrifice is always only one…Even now we offer that victim who was once offered and who will never be consumed.” The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice, nor does it multiply it.
The Church draws her life from the Eucharistic sacrifice. It is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” For the most Holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our Passover and living bread. Through His own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, He offers life to men (Cf. Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 1, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5).
Mark, my friend, these are trying times. Share your anxiety along with any other physical or moral sufferings that you and your family may be experiencing with Jesus. That is what Jesus did on the cross. He is sharing in our sufferings for He did not commit any of the acts for which he is suffering. This is the mystery of Christ’s Love for His Bride! “A love as strong as death. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away” (Song 8:6-7). Jesus said to them, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
A love like this demands a response. If your response is yes, then go to Confession and receive the Eucharist. There you will encounter the Event that transforms our lives: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament…There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth” (J.R.R. Tolkien).