Why do we need such a feast? A feast of the Eucharist gives us the opportunity, that as the family of Christ we render thanks to God for the abiding presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It gives us also the opportunity to try to arrive at a better understanding of this wonderful Sacrament and appreciate more the Body and Blood of Christ.
For this purpose we need to ask why Jesus gave us this sacrament. The Holy Scripture provides us with the answers.
We could say that Jesus gave us the Sacrament of His Body and Blood for two reasons:
- Jesus promised that He will be with us till the end of time. In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist he provides us with a sign and means of Him being present to us and we to Him. He himself told us: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
- Jesus told us that he came that we may have life and have it in abundance. He communicates this life to us in the Eucharist so that we can be fully alive now and in the world to come. He told us: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”
They were scandalized and started complaining among themselves: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” But Jesus kept insisting: “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” This sacramental language did not make any sense in a world of materialism and therefore they started leaving and distancing themselves from the Eucharist.
If we want to be honest we have to admit that we still have the same problem that these would-be followers of Jesus had. We cannot understand what the Eucharist is all about if we approach it with a materialistic mentality. And if we fail to understand it we will lose the great benefits of such a marvellous gift of God’s love.
The Holy Eucharist is true food and drink but with a difference. This difference lies in the words of the Lord that St. Augustine heard in a moment of prayer: “You will not change me into yourself as you would food into your flesh; but you will be changed into me.” Whereas ordinary food is transformed into our bodies, the food of the Eucharist transforms us into the body of Jesus. In other words, when we receive the Holy Eucharist we are transformed into what we receive.
Here one may ask: Then, why do many of us who receive the Holy Eucharist do not experience this radical transformation? This story might help us understand why.
A group of Russians and Americans were on an expedition together. Once, while they were eating, an American took some Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard to eat and while the American was eating, he bit on some of this bread and snapped a tooth. He became upset, threw away the bread, saying: “Lousy Communist bread!” One of the Russians pointed out: “It is not the lousy Communist bread that is the problem, but a rotten capitalist tooth.”
If we do not go through the transforming power of the Eucharist, it is not because of a louse Eucharist but because of our rotten faith. Therefore let us approach the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord with a stronger faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in this Sacrament and the we shall experience God’s saving power and his transforming love.