Have you ever thought about how you would respond if a celebrity you admire came to your house one day and said, “I would like to stay here with you, and what is mine is yours?” More than likely you would rejoice at what has taken place, accept the offer and call your friends.
This is unlikely to happen. But, astonishingly the fact is that all humanity has had this very thing occur, though not with a merely human celebrity. This has happened with God himself, who took on human nature. “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh…” (1 Timothy 3:16). God the Son wants to stay with us and give us what is his. What is it that he wants to give us? “This is my body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). Jesus wants to give us his very self.
We know what our response would be to the celebrity, but what is our response to God the Son, who is “the Way, the Truth and, the Life” (John 14:6)? Jesus came to invite us to the heavenly Liturgy, to “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Jesus wants to stay with us, body, blood, soul and divinity. “Behold, I am with you always…” (Matthew 28:20). He wants to share his wealth with us. He wants us to be so united with him that we can consume him.
We should always bear this in mind, but it’s especially compelling during the Year of the Eucharist.
We have been invited to the eucharistic liturgy, but many cannot believe what is happening. Many proclaim, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” (John 6:60). A 1994 New York Times/CBS poll showed that 70% of Catholics between the ages of 18 and 44 believed that the Eucharist is a symbolic reminder of Jesus. The same survey revealed that 51% of Mass-going Catholics believed that the Eucharist is symbolic.
It would be understandable if we didn’t believe the celebrity, but not to believe he who is truth? Many do not believe that when Mass is celebrated we receive Jesus’ body, though all who receive Communion respond amen, yes it is, when the priest says, “The body of Christ”. This is one of the greatest tragedies of all time.
God the Father sent the Son to make it possible for us to once again become, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). He came that we might be able to share in the inner life of God. “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1325). “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). But we also must be sure not to eat and drink damnation upon ourselves, receiving Jesus in unbelief, or mortal sin (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
When we come to Mass, we are not coming to a purely humanly instituted set of rituals. Liturgy is primarily the work of God. It is Divine Liturgy, the term Eastern Catholics use to refer to the Mass, and we are called to fully, consciously and actively participate in God’s work. Jesus comes down to us in order to raise us up. We are mysteriously, truly and really present at the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Calvary is not simply an event that occurred in the past, though it is that to be sure. Everything Christ did he did as God; thus, eternity has met time. Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). The biblical notion of a memorial is not simply like remembering an event that occurred many years ago, like a birthday. The Eucharist is a past event made really present, as a sign of future glory.
If the Eucharist is a being present at Calvary, this means that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. It is the one sacrifice of Christ, made miraculously present for us in an unbloody manner. We are not crucifying Christ again.
In order to fully participate in this one sacrifice of Christ we also need to make ourselves “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). By virtue of baptism, all of the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ, and all priests are called to offer sacrifice (Hebrews 5:1). We must offer to God all that we have, all that we are, body, heart, mind and soul.
When we come to Mass we must realize where we are – at once in our parish, at Calvary and in the midst of the heavenly liturgy.
Before each Mass we must prepare for receiving a divine person. We should arrive early, reverently and slowly genuflect before our Lord truly present in the tabernacle, silently pray and reflect on what kind of changes need to be made in our lives so as to be truly in communion with Jesus when we receive him. We should listen attentively to God’s word. During the Offertory, we should prayerfully unite ourselves with this offering. When the words of consecration are spoken, we must adore our God. When we receive Jesus, we must realize that our words mean something. We do not want to be lying when we utter the simple word, “Amen.” Once we have received our God, we should go back to the pew and thank him.
Jesus, the divine celebrity, has invited himself into our hearts, into our very bodies. He wants to share his body, blood, soul and divinity with us. He longs for us to rejoice at what has taken place, accept his offer and tell our friends. “O sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food, the memory of his passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of the life to come is given to us” (CCC 1402).