Holy Thursday – April 5th 2007
“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. … (J 13,1
on the night he was handed over, he took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”( 1 Cor 11:23-24)
John Paul II begins his Encyclical Letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” with the statement:
“The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. (n. 1)”
And he continues:
“The Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is, in an outstanding way, the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church's life. (n. 3)”
I ask myself, as well as I also ask you: “Is the Eucharist really the center of my life? What is the meaning, the significance of this Sacrament in my Christian life?”
The Pope further wrote:
“Even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. (n. 8) The Eucharist, as Christ's saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history. (n. 9) The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious– among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of Himself, of His person in His sacred humanity (n. 11)”
Do we realize, do we understand the depth and the meaning of these words? Are we really aware of the greatness of the gift we are receiving in the Sunday Eucharist?
Pope Benedict XVI, in the apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis”, writes:
“The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman. This wondrous sacrament makes manifest that "greater" love which led him to "lay down his life for his friends" (n. 1)
Jesus in the Eucharist does not give us a "thing," but Himself; He offers His own body and pours out His own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love (n. 7). In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. (n. 10)”
"The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving." (21) Jesus "draws us into Himself." (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of "nuclear fission,” to use a term which is familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all. (n. 11)”
These are the deepest dimensions of the Most Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament which we are celebrating today- in a very special way re-commemorating the very first Eucharist celebrated by our Lord and Savoir, the very night preceding His betrayal, passion and death.
The bread in front of the altar is only a symbol because Jesus Himself decided to use daily bread as the matter, the substance of the Eucharist. He was born in Beth le hem (in Hebrew it means the house of bread), many times He multiplied bread, and He choose the breed as the most powerful sign.
However, the bread which will appear on the altar is not only a symbol. It is really “Christ's saving presence” among us.
Today is perhaps the best opportunity ask oneself some fundamental questions:
- What is my attitude toward this Most Sacred Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ?
- Do I recognize Jesus’ real presence in this Sacrament?
- Do I prepare myself to be as worthy as possible to accept it in communion?
- Or do I maybe neglect it and am not truly attentive to this Mystery?
When the communists took over China in the late forties, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory. Looking through the window, he saw the soldier enter the church and break open the tabernacle, scattering the Blessed Sacrament on the floor. The priest knew the exact number of hosts: thirty-two.
Unnoticed by the soldiers, a young 11 year old girl had been praying in the back of the church and she hid when they came in. That night the girl returned, spent an hour in prayer, then entered the sanctuary where she knelt and bent over to take one of the hosts on her tongue. She actually licked it off from the floor. In those days communicants did not receive the Eucharist in their hands, but only on the tongue.
The next night she came again and did the same despite knowing soldiers were there guarding the imprisoned priest. The girl came back the following night and the next and each night throughout the whole month. She would spend an hour in prayer and receive Jesus by picking up a sacred host with her tongue. The thirty-second night, after consuming the final host, she made an accidental sound, awakening a soldier. He ran after her and when he caught her, he struck her with his rifle butt. The noise awoke the priest – but it was too late. From his house, he saw the girl die.
Bishop Fulton Sheen, who related the story, said that when he heard about this, it inspired him so much that he made a promise that he would spend one hour each day before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He always said that the power of his priesthood came from that daily holy hour and veneration of the Blessed Sacrament.