By Bob Sullivan
You know the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The bread and wine become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ when the priest consecrates the bread and wine during the Eucharistic prayer, which is during the Mass. “This is my body.” “This is the Chalice of my blood.” The Eucharist is not a symbol, it is not simply a spiritual thing, it is not a recalling of the Last Supper, and it is not bread or wine. But you know this.
You also know that you must be free from mortal sin in order to receive the Eucharist. If you receive the Eucharist with mortal sin on your soul, you actually commit a new mortal sin of sacrilege. Therefore, in order to receive the Eucharist, you need to be free from mortal sin, and the way you are freed from mortal sin is through the sacrament of reconciliation.
You know that mortal sins are grave or serious matters committed with full knowledge that they are grave, and they are committed with your free consent. In other words, you know it is serious, you know that it is contrary to God’s commands, nobody is forcing you to do it, and you do it anyway. Behaviors such as sex outside of marriage, idolatry, murder – including abortion and contraception, failing to keep the Lord’s day holy (skipping Mass), as well as other violations of the Ten Commandments are explained further in Matthew 5:19-48.
However, there may be a serious truth about the Eucharist that you don’t know.
The truth is, you can render the Eucharist worthless. Yep, even if you have confessed all of your mortal sins and all you have are some minor venial sins on you when you approach the Eucharist at communion, it can still be a total waste of time, and you can walk away totally unchanged and unaffected by Jesus. How can this happen? A Scriptural example is shown in Luke 18:18-23. If a decent person can have a conversation with Jesus Himself and still walk away unconverted, it is proof that we can do the very same thing today.
Imagine you want to run an important idea by your friend to see what he or she thinks about the matter. So you sit down at the table with your steaming cups of coffee, and the entire time you are talking, your friend is scrolling through his or her social media and texting other people. Or maybe your friend is gazing out the window as if you are not even there. Possibly your friend keeps interrupting you with things he or she would prefer to talk about, and you have to keep turning the conversation back to your topic.
That would be a terrible experience wouldn’t it? What if that was the regular experience with this friend? How long would that relationship continue? It wouldn’t.
The Eucharist is a much deeper relationship than two friends having coffee. Scripture actually describes the Eucharist as the most intimate relationship we know of, the marital embrace. In Revelation 19:9, an angel tells St. John to write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
This is why the priest says, “Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb,” just before we process up the aisle to receive the Eucharist. We are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb, but not just as an honored guest; we are there to engage in the physical reality of being “one flesh” with Jesus Christ. This is as intimate as the “one flesh” from Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:6. Dr. Ted Sri once wrote, “When you come down the aisle to receive Holy Communion, you come as the bride, as a member of the Church. And you come to be united with your divine Bridegroom who gives Himself to you in the most intimate way possible here on earth—in the Holy Eucharist.”
It is one thing to be ignored or overlooked by an acquaintance or a friend, but it is entirely different to be ignored or overlooked by your spouse. And it is entirely another matter to ignore God, especially when God is making Himself available to you in the most intimate way possible here on earth. The Eucharist is a glimpse of the wedding feast which awaits us in Heaven. But only if we know what to look for.
Through St. Faustina, we have an idea of what is really happening in our churches far too often:
“Oh, how painful it is to me that souls so seldom unite themselves to me in Holy Communion. I wait for souls and they are indifferent toward me. I love them tenderly and sincerely and they distrust me. I want to lavish my graces on them and they do not want to accept them. They treat me as a dead object, whereas my heart is full of love and mercy” (St. Faustina’s Diary, 1447)
Thankfully, God is merciful. For this reason, we are not struck dead when we receive the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin or when we receive it with indifference or like it is a magic pill or a cough drop which rarely does much for our cough. We probably deserve to be in a pile of dead bodies in the front of the Church, but God understands that we need to grow and learn.
We need to prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist and all the graces it offers. Vinny Flynn points out that we can also ask for all the graces which are rejected by others. Hopefully there aren’t any graces available, but if there are, take them.