Jesus is the best.
Therefore the Eucharist is the best.
Because the Eucharist is Jesus.
And Jesus is the Eucharist.
It’s that simple.
In our Gospel, Jesus tells us: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
This has been the Church’s perennial belief from day one. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: The Church Jesus founded has always believed that the bread and wine we bring forward to the altar become the very Body and Blood of Jesus by the word of Christ and the power of the Spirit.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, as he went to his martyrdom around 110 AD, said that he no longer had any taste for worldly food… “I desire only the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ” he writes. “And for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.”
St. Ignatius only desired the BEST!
He knew that at Mass, regular bread and regular wine become the absolute greatest thing, the most satisfying thing imaginable… they become JESUS!
And here’s the really amazing thing:
This BEST sacrament, this MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT is the one that we get to receive with the most frequency!!!!
Think about it:
Baptism is incredible — but you only get baptized once.
Confirmation? — Only once in a lifetime!
Holy orders? — a maximum of three times (deacon, priest, bishop)
Marriage? …Generally once, but it may be repeated after the death of a spouse.
Anointing of the sick? You can receive it when you’re seriously ill or elderly, and you can receive it again when your condition worsens… But we certainly don’t receive anointing of the sick with any kind of regular frequency!
Confession? At the very least, once a year, but once a month or so is a good idea… and of course, as soon as possible after a grave sin…
But Holy Communion?
You can receive the Eucharist every single Sunday…
And if you wanted to — you could receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist every single day!!!!
Now this might lead us to believe, perhaps, that because it’s so regular and so readily accessible (at least in our part of the world), that the Eucharist must not really be that special.
But in reality, it’s JUST THE OPPOSITE.
This is the amazing thing about our God: He actually wants to give us the BEST thing the MOST often. He feeds us with the absolute FINEST wheat. He goes totally and completely overboard on us.
This goes against our natural, worldly mindset, doesn’t it?
We tend to save the “best” for what we assume are the most important occasions. We cook the best meal when we have invited the most ‘important,’ most ‘exclusive’ guests to our home. We open the best bottle of wine only for the most extraordinary celebrations with our closest family and friends. We pull out the best silverware and china for the most exceptional holidays. We wear our very best clothes only at the rarest moments and for the most unique festivities.
But Jesus pulls out all the stops — he unfurls the absolute finest He has to offer — the Most Blessed Sacrament — every. single. day.
Why does God go to such lengths?
To somehow convince us:
That we are loved.
That He is present.
And that He wants to be with us.
That’s what we celebrate on this feast day: The Feast of Corpus Christi: Jesus, the best thing that ever happened to us, gives us Himself in the breaking of the Bread.
Mother Teresa once famously said that “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you (2,000 years ago). When you look at the Sacred Host — at the Eucharist! — you understand how much He loves you now.”
God is so rich — He squanders everything on us. He pours it ALL out. All His life. All His Blood. All His goodness. There is no lack to His love! He’s not stingy. He doesn’t skimp on us. His love can never run out! It cannot be fully spent! There is no scarcity. Only superabundance! Only life.
Only the best!
Nothing else will do!
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” Saint Paul asks in our second reading today. “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
Now, if Jesus is willing to do all this for us — to give us this level of intimacy, this level of profound participation — then should we not respond accordingly to the best of our abilities?
Shouldn’t we give HIM our BEST in return?
We don’t often talk about this, but one way we can give Jesus our absolute BEST is to take very good care… the best care… of the Eucharistic elements themselves.
If you weren’t aware already, we really do believe that every single crumb, every single drop from the chalice is the Real Presence of our Lord. That’s why we purify the vessels with such meticulous care. That’s why we use the Sacrarium when washing the patens and chalices, which sends the water and any remaining particles directly into the heart of the earth rather than into the sewer system.
We don’t want Jesus in the sewer, do we?
No he deserves better than that!
This firm belief also means that if we receive Jesus on our hands rather than on our tongues, then we have a responsibility to do so properly, carefully, and reverently. We should extend our hands nice and flat, lifted up, and open wide — like a throne to receive the King of Kings! And as we do so, we need to be alert to any potential crumbs and particles that may remain on our palms.
I’ll share one quick story with you all to illustrate my point.
One time while distributing Communion here at St. Bede, I happened to notice as I placed the host in a man’s hand that a single little tiny crumb had broken off, and was still on his open palm. As he turned to walk away, I called out, trying to get his attention. He couldn’t really hear me I guess, and so he kept walking away. But then suddenly, he stopped, turned around, and came back to me.
I pointed right at the tiny little crumb on his hand and said:
“That… is Jesus.”
He looked down at the little white speck, and then back at me. The look in his eyes was one of profound wonder and awe. He then reverently took the crumb and consumed it right there in front of me.
Immediately after mass, he came right up and told me what a huge impact that exchange had on him. He told me that as he turned toward his pew, it was like a little voice in his head was tugging at him to turn back around and go back to the priest. When he finally did, he saw me trying in vain to get his attention.
And then THAT interaction happened…
This stuff is real! — And as practicing Catholics, we need to take it very seriously.
Because Jesus deserves the best!
Nothing second rate will do!
Any nonchalance, any indifference, any casual minimalism, any lack of awareness when receiving Jesus in the Eucharist unfortunately communicates to everyone around us that this doesn’t matter very much.
I suspect that some of the sad statistics we hear so often — that only about two third of regularly attending Catholics profess belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist — are partially a result of how we have (at times) neglected to take the Eucharist absolutely seriously.
People notice when we are lackadaisical or let things slide…
So let’s practice what we preach! — That the Holy Eucharist is a foretaste of Heaven itself! Or as Vatican II puts it: “In the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.” It’s the sum and summary of our faith, says the Catechism. The source and summit! The Eucharist is EVERYTHING.
It’s the BEST!
Another way we can give Jesus our very best is to always receive Him in what the Church has traditionally called “a state of grace.”
What does it mean to be “in a state of grace?”
Well, it means that to the best of our knowledge and after an examination of conscience, we have determined that we are free from any mortal sins and that we are in an ongoing, intentional friendship — a relationship — with our Lord.
We might remember from our Bibles that Saint Paul makes this condition for reception of the Eucharist quite clear: “A person should examine himself,” he says “and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
Clearly, this is serious business!
Jesus wants to feed each and every one of us this finest and most exquisite meal of His own Body and Blood… but the reality is this:
It won’t do us any good if we don’t come and receive Jesus in the right condition of soul. In fact, it will no longer be helpful… it will be harmful!
Maybe this image will help:
Picture a kid who has been invited to an AMAZING banquet — it’s going to be the fanciest, most beautiful meal imaginable… But instead of listening to his parents instructions… instead of saving his appetite and preparing well for this great feast — he decides instead to stuff his face with potato chips and candy bars twenty minutes before the party begins.
He shows up to the banquet sick and full, of course! He can’t enjoy any of it. In fact, it won’t do him any good at all! It might even be disgusting to him!
This is what mortal sin does to our souls. It makes us sick. Really…that’s not even strong enough: It’s spiritual death. It’s the death of grace in the soul!
This is why the Church has consistently taught that we must first confess (worthily and well) any and all grave, serious sins prior to reception of Holy Communion.
Because Jesus deserves the best, doesn’t He?
He deserves to be met with our complete openness and receptivity! Our docility! Our repentance! Our contrition! Our love!
We should be willing to do anything to get Jesus.
Because to get Him is to get Heaven.
He’s the best there is.
The Eucharist is the best there is.
Nothing else compares.