How much would you pay a person to die for you? It sounds like a strange question, but people have died for others. Many times in history people have literally given their lives for the sake of others. A soldier has absorbed in his own body the explosion that would have killed the other men. Just last year, a firefighter went into a burning house and rescued a child. The child lived because the fireman put his own mask over the child’s mouth: the fireman died because of the smoke.
That kind of gift, my friends, is beyond deserving. The only thing a person can do is quietly and humbly and gratefully accept it. Jesus thought of His death in terms just as real as that. He was sacrificing Himself in order to save others, and faced with that kind of gift, only one response is appropriate: we can do nothing except receive it. That is all Jesus asked His disciples to do.
You see, Jesus is not only someone we try to follow. Above all, He is a gift to be received. The night before He died Jesus was faced with a problem: He knew He had to leave us, but He wanted to stay. The solution is unbelievable, a solution only God could think of. He takes bread and wine and transforms them into His body and blood. Again, He gives himself.
This is so amazing that we only believe because Jesus told us. As someone once said, if God Himself has told us, who would dare to question? And so, just as Jesus fed those people in our Gospel today, He feeds us at every mass not just with bread and wine, but with His own body and blood.
This is not something between me and Jesus, not just a solitary supper or a private party. Yes, this is a precious moment, but it also forms community. St. Paul phrased it beautifully: “Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body.” For we all partake of the one bread. The Lord who locks Himself in the tabernacle of my body is none other than the Lord who nourishes my next-door neighbor, the same Christ who feeds the Lebanese, the Japanese, the African and the Cuban. Christ is not divided, Christ is multiplied! There is one and the same body, one and the same Christ for all. In His flesh, we are one.
The presence of Christ in me should at least make me think about my attitude towards the rest of the body of Christ. Do I ever think about that person who lives alone? The neighbor who is sick or elderly? Do I ever shop for them? Call them? Do I take time to listen when others need to talk? Does the presence of Christ in me make any difference to the way I live? Do I spread scandal and gossip, ruining people’s reputations?
While I receive the One who said, “Judge not and you shall not be judged,” do I use and abuse others either emotionally or physically? While I receive the One who said, “Love others as you would love yourselves,” do I embody love?
In other words, does the Eucharist make a difference in our lives, or is it something that has become commonplace? Something we do every Sunday whether we want to or not? Jesus is a gift to be received, but how do we receive Him? When we come forward to Holy Communion, do we come forward because everyone else does, or do we come forward because we want to receive God, want Him to be part of our lives?
When you have a visitor, you prepare, shower, and dress. Do you ever think to prepare for receiving Holy Communion by prayer or confession? Jesus wants to be part of you, and for you to be part of Him so He invites you to receive Him at every mass. When we realize that, we begin to understand what He meant when He said, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world.” And we begin to understand what the Psalmist meant, hundreds of years before Jesus, when he said, “Take and see the goodness of the Lord.”