Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ
26 June 2011
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
The grace present in a single Eucharist received by one person is enough to save the entire universe. This is true. It might be hard to believe, given that billions of Eucharists celebrated and received across the world for centuries, are easy enough to ignore. The grace of a single Eucharist is enough to save the world, and the grace of the Eucharist has indeed saved the world already, although the world does not fully know it. Which makes it all the more amazing that I can receive the Eucharist today doubting that I will change very much. I may receive the Eucharist a thousand times or more across the span of my life, and not change very much, at least as far as I can tell.
Part of this is Jesus' fault, of course. He does not force our conversion. Just as the Lord did not force the conversion of the Israelites, who like us were more afraid of conversion than slavery, so too Jesus did not force the faith of the Jews who were skeptical of his claim to give his flesh as real food. At least the Jews were honest, saying they did not believe what Jesus was saying, and realizing that to accept Jesus' words is to accept what the Cure of Ars said about the Eucharist - that if I realized what was really present in the Eucharist, I would die. The Jews, like us were not ready quite yet for this vertical unmeasured life that lies on the other side of death. They realized maybe better than us sometimes that Jesus is either crazy or the way, the truth and the life. They found no middle ground in his words like we do. To receive the bread of which Jesus spoke was to enter into a new faith, and profound conversion. The Jews who first rejected the Eucharist were more honest that we who receive the Lord without much hope of changing. Jesus allows this of course, hiding himself perfectly in a sacrament so ordinary, begging for our faith, allowing Himself to be ignored virtually every time, while never ceasing to believe that in this Eucharist right now a saint can be born, a beyond all odds at this moment a unity in love might be achieved that produces the extraordinary gift of eternal life. If there is one chance in a million, one chance in a hundred billion, that today's Eucharist will produce a saint, Jesus will allow Himself to be spent completely and made present perfectly - body, blood, soul and divinity - by the words of an ordinary priest.
In one sense, 75% of Catholics not receiving the Eucharist regularly is honest, for who of us receives the Eucharist worthily? Yet, of course, in the more important sense, such a statistic is a great tragedy, for most people avoid the Eucharist not out of humility, but out of pride, and an unwillingness to become what we receive in the Eucharist. In rejecting the Eucharist, we pridefully reject the sacrament of unity that will remain forever the surest path to the redemption of every human heart that this world will ever know. If we can imagine a love that the greater chance it will be rejected, the more readily and humbly that love gives itself, then we have discovered the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is that same perfect love that created everything out of nothing, and the same perfect love that even more powerfully recreates a human heart and renews its desire to live in perfect love. To give up on the Eucharist, is to surely give up on ourselves and our neighbor. May we set our pride aside and admit in this Eucharist, that no matter how likely it is that I will become a saint today, still what Jesus is ready to perfectly give to me - his body, blood, soul and divinity - is what I most need to receive. Amen.