Receiving and Entering Into Communion

Corpus ChristiFlannery O’Connor, the noted Catholic writer of the mid-twentieth century, recounts the conversion story of a Protestant lady friend. She took her lady friend with her to Mass a few times and after a short time her friend decided to become a Catholic. When Flannery asked her why she reached this decision the lady answered, “Well, the sermons were so terrible, I knew there must be something else there to make them want to come.”

Hopefully, the people at Saint John Bosco aren’t saying that about my preaching. However, I do hope that they are attracted to the Church by more than my preaching. I hope that it is the power of the Eucharist that attracts them. I pray that they believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – and its power in their lives.

Yet, as much as Catholics love the Eucharist, it is my experience that many of us do not celebrate it as fully as we ought. We focus our eyes and ears on the consecration of the bread and wine and after the showing of the consecrated species many bow their heads in profound reverence as the presider genuflects.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I certainly understand and appreciate that reverence, and I am deeply moved by it as I preside at Mass. But I wonder how many of us hear and are just as deeply moved by the words of the various Eucharistic Prayers that follow the words of consecration. “Humbly we pray that, partaking of the body and blood of Christ, may we be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.   . . . Grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.   . . . Grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice to Christ to the praise of your glory.”

The Benedictine Father Wilfred Theisen refers to these words in the Eucharistic Prayers as “’a second consecration’ that expresses the ultimate purpose of the first consecration. That’s right; the whole purpose of the words of the consecration that takes place on the altar is for the sake of the ‘second consecration’ that takes place in the pews.” He even goes so far as to suggest that it might be appropriate at that point in the Mass for all of us to turn around and look at the other members of our body present with us. In other words, the Body of Christ on the altar is for the sake of the Body of Christ in the pews.

This belief really isn’t something new for us as Catholics. Saint Augustine, the 4th Century Doctor of the Church, taught the people of his time to remember that “the one who worthily comes forward to receive the Body of Christ must worthily become the Body of Christ.”

This Sunday is Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. It might be a good time for all of us to remember that when we come to Mass, we come not just to receive Communion – but to enter into communion. To enter into communion with Jesus, with those who are present for that celebration of that Mass, and with the whole Body of Christ.  We are sent forth at the end of Mass, as the Body of Christ, inviting all who we encounter into communion with us and the Lord Jesus.

To slow down my life a little, through Labor Day I will be blogging every other week – so my next blog will be on June 17th.

A question for reflection – Having been nourished at communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, how do you find yourself living in communion with your brothers and sisters who are the Body of Christ?

The image of the pelican is an ancient symbol of the Eucharist.  If a mother pelican’s chicks are dying for lack of food, it pierces its own breast to feed its young with its own blood. Likewise, the heart of Jesus was pierced on the Cross (John 19:34), and the Blood that flowed out was true drink, and whoever drinks his Blood gains eternal life (John 6:54,55).

June 3rd, 2015 |