If you’ve never been before the Eucharistic host, you might think, how silly. You might even believe, as a friend of mine recently conveyed, that it’s “just a wafer.” Certainly, our senses would tell us this is the case.
However, the Church, following the directive of our Lord himself as laid out in John 6, calls this “the living bread that came down from heaven,” noting Jesus’ own words when he said that anyone “who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” If you read the whole discourse, you’ll see how adamant Jesus is; how he does not back down, even when some in the crowd shake their heads, declaring that what he is saying is impossible. Jesus persists. Some walk away not able to buy what Jesus is saying; others, though not understanding totally, stay and believe.
For the early Christians, this was a central teaching of the Church, one of the greatest treasures left by Jesus for us after his death. Our Lord wanted us to know he would not abandon us, despite needing to return to the Father and leave the earth for a time. He knew we’d need a reminder, so he left us the Eucharist. He left us himself.
The other night, I was so tired, but our church was hosting an evening of prayer and Adoration as part of a national effort to pray for restoration of a culture of life in our land. Though weary, I knew that in going, I’d likely leave refreshed. It was 9:30 p.m. when I arrived. I stayed two hours, and the whole time, I felt so much at peace. The daily Mass chapel where our Lord had been placed in a vessel called a monstrance glowed from the light of candles and recessed lighting overhead. But its central glow was something received more through the heart, and emanated from the central piece, Jesus himself. A crucifix above reminded of God’s great love for us; nearby a statue of his mother beckoned us to draw closer to her Son’s heart. And there on the altar, the living bread come down for heaven, for us.
When one takes Jesus at His word, one has eyes to see that this is more than a wafer, but, in fact, the Lord of the Universe, veiled in bread, but nonetheless present truly — body, blood, soul and divinity. At Mass, if we are so disposed, we can receive him into ourselves, and in this, his grace and goodness. But even away from Mass, in Adoration chapels everywhere, we can come “let us adore him,” just like the three wise men who followed the star of Bethlehem some 2018 years ago.
Christ is indeed with us! There are so many ways, but his presence in the Eucharistic host is a special one that can be hard to adequately describe to those who have not experienced it firsthand. What I can say is that I’ve never felt such calm as when sitting near the Eucharist in Adoration. It’s as if every cell in my body is attentive, yet reposed and trusting. There is a warmth felt from within, unlike any other.
It took me a while to discover Jesus in this form, and now, I can’t stay away. The Eucharist truly energizes and sustains me, and it is definitely one of the reasons that despite all of the failings of the Body of Christ — especially some of her leaders of late — I am so abundantly grateful to be part of this big, Catholic family. If I were asked to name just one thing I believe wholeheartedly that those outside the Catholic fold are missing, it would be this One.
Fr. Mike Schmitz from the University of Minnesota Duluth does a much better job than I of explaining the Eucharist. If you have some time this week, I urge you to listen. It could just change your life.
Q4U: What does the Eucharist mean to you?