Every time we walk into a church, every time we pass by a church, every time we see a picture of a priest consecrating the Eucharist, holding it aloft—not just for our veneration, but our worship—yes, we see the supernatural miracle of bread and wine transubstantiated into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But we also see—or should see—so much more.
We should see an answer to the third question in the Baltimore Catechism: “Why did God make you?” “God made me to know, love, and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him in the next.”
You see, the Eucharist is a sign post. It points to our ultimate end: Eternal union with Him in heaven. And just as the marital act is the sign and seal of the nuptial union, so Jesus impregnates us with the graces each time we receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament. This, incidentally, is why there will be no need of marriage in heaven: Heaven is marriage. Heaven is a union of hearts where the two truly do become one. And the more we access the grace of the Eucharist here on earth, the more that eternal life to which all are destined—although only “many” achieve—is made present in us.
As Pope Benedict XVI has said, “Receiving Communion means entering into communion with Jesus Christ…. What is given us here is not a piece of a body, not a thing, but Him, the Resurrected one Himself—the person who shares Himself with us in His love…. This means that receiving Communion is always a personal act…. In Communion I enter into the Lord, Who is communicating Himself to me.”
Think of it this way: The more we have eternal life in us, the more we have God’s love in us.
And do you want to know how much God loves us? Look there at that tabernacle. Look to the cross, yes, but look there to that tabernacle. Our Lord not only died for our sins, but He did so in the most humiliating fashion, didn’t He? St. Paul tells us He humbled Himself to death, even death on a cross, the death of a criminal, the death of a slave. But it didn’t end there. He continues to humble Himself by being present to us.
Think of the Third Sorrowful Mystery, the crowning with thorns.
· Describe the scene
· What was His reaction?
· Answer your question.
In a sense, the tabernacle is a perpetual Crowning with Thorns. For He is ignored. When people walk into church, some give Him a perfunctory act of reverence, others don’t do it at all. Some mock Him: “It” is only just a symbol, they say. And just as unworthy reception of the actual Host at Communion is a sacrilege and a mortal sin, this blasé anticipation of Communion, the coming before the tabernacle, is to a degree sacrilegious and thus sinful, if not mortally so.
Considering all of this, do you see why unworthy reception of the Blessed Sacrament is such a heinous crime that it calls for “condemnation,” for “damnation”? If one worthy reception of the Eucharist is enough to make each of us a saint, if it is enough to sanctify the whole world, think of the flip side. Think of the unworthy receptions.
Here’s why this is a problem: As the soon-to-be-beatified John Paul II taught, we were created in love and for love. We were created for the same sort of free, faithful, total, and fruitful union that is found in the Blessed Sacrament, which contains the entire Trinity, for God is one, indivisible. And just as the love between the Father and Son is so powerful the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from it, so the love between a man and a woman is so strong that nine months later, you have to give it a name. And what happens when we treat our spouse with scorn or derision? What happens when that love is violated in adultery? It is a rending asunder of what God has brought together. Well, if that’s true in the marital act, how much more true is it in one unworthy reception of the Eucharist?
The door to salvation for the Jews in Egypt was the blood of the lamb marked on the doorposts. The door to our salvation is marked by the blood of the eternal Paschal Lamb, the Agnus Dei, and the door is the door of our hearts. If our hearts are impure, what a pollution of that paschal sacrifice. If the salvation of the many, as the Ven. Pius XII wrote in Mystici Corporis, is dependent on the holiness of a few, then what will the unholiness of many do?
And so if you are concerned about the holiness of Holy Mother Church, if you are as bewildered as I am by the troubles that have beset her in the last 50 years, then look no further than this: The unworthy reception of Holy Communion, of Our Lord in the Eucharist. As author Brian Gail has noted, in many places we have done away with sin, we have done away with objective moral evil, we have done away with the need for confession. In some parish bulletins, we read “Confession by appointment only.” “Confession 15 minutes before Mass.” “Confess between 3:45 and 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoons.” Yes, priests are busy, they are few, they are overwhelmed and underappreciated, and, let’s face it, in many parishes, if they were in the box any longer, they would be alone for an awfully long time. But how much of that is borne of this false philosophy of sin, that it doesn’t truly exist?
And whatever its cause, the effect is that a disruption has taken place between the hearts of men and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For since we no longer circumcise our hearts through repentance and confession, there remains an insurmountable barrier for Our Lord to enter our hearts with His lacerated heart. If we are dismayed by a lack of commitment to the Gospel of Love and Life, we need look no further than a lack of devotion to the Bread of Love and Life. As Gail writes, “We cannot have a holy Church with unworthy and sacrilegious communions. We cannot have holy families with unworthy and sacrilegious communions. We cannot have a holy people with unworthy and sacrilegious communions. And make no mistake, America will not preserve its cherished freedoms unless we Catholics cherish and preserve the Eucharist.”
But what can we do? We do our best to not sin ourselves, yes, but how can we help our brothers and sisters? We need to live our devotion. We need to exemplify our devotion. We need to concentrate on our devotion, expelling any and all distractions as we approach the Sacred Banquet. If we have a scintilla of doubt our hearts are ready and worthy, we can always do as Bl. Mother Teresa did, who prayed as she walked up for Communion, “Lord, if my heart is in any way unworthy to receive You, please give me the Immaculate Heart of Your mother at this moment.”
We can preach, yes, but not in an overbearing, shrewish, unattractive way. Think of when someone has come off holier than thou to you. How appealing has that been? Do as the wise have done for centuries: Propose, don’t impose. Let it seem like their idea. Ask questions. “Oh, you think that. Hmmm. Well, what about this consideration?” Plant the seed. You don’t need to water, unless God makes clear He is calling you to do that. You don’t need to weed and tend. That is the Holy Spirit’s job.
But most importantly, we need to pray. First, we need to pray for mercy and the steadfast renewal of our own hearts. If we do not say with the publican, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” how are our own hearts worthy? If we concentrate on how poorly some receive in terms of their mere outward, visible devotion, if we know of some sin or fault of someone in line, and our mind fixates on that, how are we any worthier than the Pharisee who boasted before God of his sinlessness? Qualitatively, it’s the same. So pray for purity of heart and mercy.
Then pray in reparation. We can only receive sacramentally twice each day, and then only under very particular circumstances. But we can receive spiritually as many times a day as we choose, and we can offer all of these for abuses against Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Indeed, St. Maximilian Kolbe tells us, “At times, spiritual Communion brings the same graces as sacramental.”
We can do even more. When you go by a church, be sure to make some act of reverence for Our Lord, the Prisoner of the Tabernacle there. When you pass by a sign for a “Gentleman’s Club” on the freeway or an adult bookstore at an intersection or a sign for a politician who does not promote the Gospel of Life, or an abortion clinic, make an act of contrition. Pray three Hail Marys for those going up to receive Communion, that none would receive unworthily, and that if any do, that Our Lord would penetrate those uncircumcised hearts post haste in order to show them their fault and to thereby lead them to repentance and confession. But that is for Him and not us to judge.
We need to take back the world, and the way we do that is by taking back the Church, and the way to do that is by becoming holy, and the way to do that, my brothers and sisters, it to take back the Eucharist and exemplify with every fiber of our being and at every moment of the day its sanctity and its presence in our life as the “source and summit” of our Holy Faith.
In closing, let us pray with St. Faustina Kowalska:
O Jesus, concealed in the Host, my sweet Master and faithful Friend, how happy muy soul is to have such a Friend Who always keeps me company…. How happy I am to be a dwelling place for You, O Lord! My heart is a temple in which You dwell continually.
As it was and is with her, so may it be with us. Amen.