The Deeper Meaning of the Eucharist

Padre Pio tells us; “It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is to help us appreciate the deeper meaning of the Mass, and of all our life!

I met a lady the other day who shared with me, that when she attends Mass, it brings her to tears each time. Our saints and theologians tell us that the Mass is the Source and Summit of our life, a profound mystery where the worship of both heaven and earth are united. Saint Joseph of Cupertino (Patron Saint of our Franciscan Province), would levitate in ecstasy while celebrating the Mass. Concerning the value of the Mass, Padre Pio said: “If men only appreciated the value of a holy Mass they would need traffic officers at church doors every day to keep the crowds in order.” When asked what his Mass meant to him. He responded: “It is a sacred participation in the passion of Jesus. All that the Lord suffered in His passion, I suffer, to the extent that it is possible to a human being.” He further tells us: “Every holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we, ourselves, do not know. It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Today however, so many of us, including myself (although my appreciation and understanding have grown due to living with many other friars, and Priests, and sharing our experiences), seem to attend Mass routinely, even sometimes daydreaming and board! The following image came to my mind. Imagine someone like the woman, described above, who recognizes (perhaps by a divine gift) the significance and beauty of the Mass, and each time she attends, goes into ecstasy. Image that it was her regular routine to go to Mass on Saturday evening, and then go out to dinner. Imagine, that one day, an old friend calls her and says he’d like to visit her and he come over and go out to dinner with her. He comes over, hungry, excited to see an old friend and enjoy a fine meal. But almost without thinking and certainly without explaining, she takes him, as is her routine, first to Mass (although planning to go to “dinner” after). She again during Mass, is in ecstasy, and filled with joy. Her friend however, seeing only with his worldly eyes, receives the small piece of bread, hardly enough to satisfy his hunger and expectations of a fine meal, and is disappointed! How different the two views! Our friend who so loves the Mass, notices finally his disappointment, and is deeply saddened by her inability to say anything, that would change the disappointment and perception of her friend. I think this little story shows just a bit, the difference between how we often experience the Eucharist, and How God sees and wants us to experience the Eucharist!

The Eucharist is many things, beyond what words can explain. Our appreciation of it is a divine gift. But I think it helpful, and profound to share that, as Padre Pio explains above, and as he even experienced, we believe that the Eucharist is not a “memorial” as we humans think of it. Instead of a re-enactment, instead of a making present again, it is a making present once, through all time and space, the one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. At the last supper 2,000 years ago, Christ knew that his disciples would abandon him the next day. Yet he forgave them, and wanted to give them a way to be with Him, and receive the saving benefits of his sacrifice, even though they would not be there. So, as was the Jewish tradition, he took the bread of sacrifice, offered it to God, and then shared it with those whom He wished to receive the benefits of the sacrifice. The sacrifice of course was to be Himself, the Lamb of God, the next day, but the disciples at the last supper were allowed to partake in that same sacrifice, in the only way they could because in His mercy, he knew their imperfections. The church has come to realize over the years, through a divine gift that is testified to by the saints and teaching of the church, that the Lord treats us in the same merciful way. That at each Eucharist, through all time, we are invited to participate in that same one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, and receive it’s saving benefit, despite where we are in time and space as we humans experience it. God has no time. God is always and forever, without beginning or end. The Eucharist is the trans-historical presentation of the one sacrifice of Christ, and we are invited! In the Mass, we join ourselves imperfectly to His perfect sacrifice to God the Father, and we then through Him, make a sacrifice of ourselves, that is pleasing to God. Then having joined ourselves to his perfect sacrifice in obedience to the Father, and in Love for the salvation of all, we share in the saving effects of Christ’s redemption, and in His resurrection. Then, in our lives, He lives, and we share in His ministry as priest, making God present in our world, bringing Him to others, and others to Him.

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is STILL so much more! Today’s Feast is not only about the deeper reality of the Mass, it is about the deeper reality of all our existence! Continue Reading…

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