From Soul of Christ
In this chapter, we continue to pray with the petition, Body of Christ, save me, focusing particularly on the saving presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – Jesus celebrated, adored, and lived – and how his saving presence transforms us as church into the living Body of Christ in time and space.
Body of Christ…
Two of the greatest mysteries that define our faith are referred to in this simple phrase. Both are about God coming closer to us: the Incarnation (the Son of God taking on our humanity to save us) and the Eucharist (the Son of God taking on the form of bread and wine to become our food and drink, to draw us into the embrace of the Trinity). One profound connection between these two mysteries is how much God loves us.
The life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the ways that he – as Son of God and Son of Man – could physically express both his saving love for us and the loving will of the Most Holy Trinity that we be saved. The Eucharist is where we can touch and taste the love of God.
Because of routine, disillusionment, passivity, ignorance, or distraction we can come to take the mystery of the Eucharist for granted. We can forget what a great gift the Eucharist is. When we do, Mass can even seem a rote, tiresome duty. But to take part in the Eucharistic Mystery of Love is really an incredible privilege, no matter how we are feeling in the moment.
At bare minimum, participating at Mass is a way to praise and thank God for sending his Son to save us and to receive his saving love. But we are not called to live as “minimum catholics.” Instead, we are invited to intensify our participation in the Eucharistic Mystery – at Mass and during Eucharistic adoration:
- by adoring Jesus really present in the Eucharist – Body, Blood, soul, and divinity;
- by uniting ourselves to Jesus in his self-offering;
- by allowing Jesus to transform and send us as messengers of his love to others.
Jesus perpetuates the sacrifice of the cross through the Eucharistic sacrifice. How can we remain indifferent before the Real Presence of the Son of God who loves us to the point of brokenness and death? Just as during his Earthly life Jesus risked hatred, persecution, and execution, in his vulnerable presence in the Eucharist, Jesus risks being ignored, disrespected, hated, and reviled. Wafers of bread that can be broken and cups of wine that can be spilled are the Eucharistic sign of our omnipotent God becoming vulnerable for us. A fragile wafer of bread contains the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord of all creation. This fragility is how Jesus chooses to save us. This selfless fragility is what makes him so accessible to us. Let us adore his Eucharistic humility, hiddenness, vulnerability, silence, self-giving.
A few years ago when I was making retreat, it really came home to me how much I had let fear stifle me throughout my life. But I didn’t have the humility to simply accept my fear and offer it to Jesus. Instead, I fell into the trap of shame and became deeply discouraged. If I was so full of fear, how could Christ love me and continue to call me to be a sister who communicates his love?
In this despondent frame of mind, I participated in midday Mass. I don’t remember the readings – I’m not sure I even heard them. I do remember the rising desperation that tightened my chest throughout the Eucharistic prayer. Then it was time for Communion. Since there were no Eucharistic ministers, Father indicated that he would like me to distribute Communion. Reluctantly and struggling internally, I went up to the altar. I received the host in my hand and held Jesus. What difference will it make? was my first through. My sinfulness and fear will block Christ’s grace.
Jesus, Lamb of God, I adore you, I tried to pray. But I am not worthy to receive you! How can you even tolerate coming to me in Communion? As I lifted the host closer, I could see how thin that host was, how frail! A piece had broken off so that the host was not perfectly round. It was even crumbly around the edges. Like me, I realized. Something shifted inside of me. If Jesus could transform such a humble thing as a broken wafer of bread into his Body, couldn’t he transform me?
Those few seconds brushed eternity. I received Jesus very humbly, accepting his love for me, frail and fearful as I am. I begged him to transform me and to work through my weakness. Jesus’s frailty in the Eucharistic host had helped me to receive his love for me – in and even through my weaknesses.
In every Communion, we are offered an opportunity that could make even the angels jealous: we are physically, tangibly united with Jesus; and if we are receptive, we are saved, sanctified, transformed. In adoration, we can take the quiet time we need to draw close to the One who has first come close to us. Each time we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, his saving grace can enter us more fully and transform us, little by little.
…save me, save us.
Jesus in the Eucharist does not just come to us individually. Saint Paul describes the church as Christ’s Mystical Body, with Christ as head and the people of God as members. Perhaps we could sometimes pray, “Body of Christ, save us,” aware that Jesus wants to continue his presence and saving mission through all the members of the church he instituted.
In his priestly prayer, Jesus links his urgent plea to the Father for our salvation with his intense appeal that we be brought into communion with each other: “That they may all be one,” (John 17:21). As members of the Body of Christ, we are not only united with Jesus but with each other in him. Our adoption as children of God makes us brothers and sisters. Our differences, no matter how big, are surpassed by all we share in Christ.
As church, formed by the Eucharistic Jesus into the Body of Christ, we are called to live the Eucharistic virtues that Jesus displayed so lovingly at the washing of the feet at the Last Supper: a silent presence that lovingly welcomes everyone, that forgives, that is available to everyone, that gives of self so that others may live.
Raymond was an ordinary, mischievous Polish boy, yet his mother witnessed his gradual maturation into a young man who wanted to give his life to Christ. As a teen, he entered the Franciscans and took the name Maximilian. He founded new friaries, developed the Franciscan mission, and was known to have a special love for Mary, the Immaculate. When the Nazis invaded Poland, Maximillian did his best to protect the friars and the Polish refugees – the majority of whom were Jews. Eventually, he was taken to the death camp of Auschwitz, where he was treated especially brutally because he did not hide the fact that he was a priest.
When ten men were unjustly condemned to death by starvation, one cried out in desperation that his wife and sons would never see him again. Maximilian stepped forward and offered to take his place. He died as a martyr of charity – offering his own life to save another’s.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s story stuns us; yet, in every Eucharist, we celebrate that Jesus has done even more for us! While we may not be called to lay down our lives for another as dramatically as Saint Maximilian did, we are called to spend ourselves in love – to truly love on another, even at great cost.