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What Jesus Does in His Eucharist
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
On Holy Thursday night, Jesus did three things: He changed the common elements of bread and wine into His own living Body and Blood. He offered His human life to His heavenly Father, to be accomplished on Calvary, when He would bleed to death in order to restore eternal life to a fallen human family. He gave the disciples His flesh to eat and His blood to drink in order to sustain them in His grace and raise them up on the last day.
Then Jesus did one more thing. He ordained His apostles to the priesthood and thus gave them and their successors the power to continue doing what He had done until the end of time.
Consequently, the Jesus present in the Eucharist today is the victorious Christ who conquered death and who is in our midst pouring out His grace. Like Him, we too are to die. And like Him we are to rise on the last day but on one condition: that we believe in Him and in believing may follow Him, now in suffering, so that we may join Him in a glorious eternity.
Every time Mass is offered, Jesus is giving Himself to His heavenly Father. He can no longer die, but with His human will He can continue surrendering His human life for our salvation. He physically died only once and thus merited our redemption. In the Mass, He mystically dies every time the Holy Sacrifice is celebrated and through the Mass confers the graces we so desperately need to remain faithful to His name.
Holy Mass therefore is both a sacrifice and a sacrament. It is a sacrifice because Christ really surrenders Himself and us along with Him, to the eternal Father. It is a sacrament because from the Mass the whole human race receives the strength it needs to give up its own selfish will to the demanding and loving will of God.
The capstone of the Eucharist is Holy Communion. Its very name tells us what it can do for a soul who receives the Lord with loving charity. It makes that soul holy.
If the perfection of love is unity, the reception of divine Love-become-man gives us the light and strength we need to be, and remain, united with Jesus no matter how heavy the price may be.
Without Holy Communion we could not remain firm in our loyalty to Jesus Christ. We could not remain patient under trial. We could not remain humble under human praise. We could not remain clear in our vision that sees everything here on earth as only a means to our final destiny.
In her Dialogue on prayer, St. Catherine of Siena shares this observation of Christ about Holy Communion: By receiving this sacrament, He says, the soul dwells in Me and I in her, as the fish in the sea and the sea in the fish thus do I dwell in the soul and the soul in Me the sea of peace.
There is nothing we desire more than peace. Very well! The secret is to accept in our bodies the Prince of Peace and then cooperate with the graces we receive.
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