When I was a child, my father would sometimes lean over to me after the consecration at Mass and whisper, “Jesus is here, and He loves you.” This statement was at once a testament to my father’s own deep faith, as well as his fulfilling the promise he made at my baptism to hand that faith on to me. In this statement, he sums up well two core beliefs that we have as Catholics: In the Eucharist, Jesus is truly present, and therefore, we encounter Him who is love itself.
Our belief in the Eucharist finds its roots in the words, actions and command of Jesus. In John 4, He tells the Samaritan woman at the well that He Himself is all that will satisfy her — and thereby, our — eternal thirst. In John 6, He says that He is the bread of life, that His flesh is true food and His blood true drink, giving us eternal life.
When the crowd began to balk at Him and walk away, He did not back down and say that He was speaking in metaphor. Instead, He doubled down, because what He spoke was true. He brought these words to life at the Last Supper, when He took bread and wine, offering it as His Body and Blood — not in symbol, but in reality — thereby modeling for us what we now make present again in the Mass. In that same event, He gave His disciples a command: “Do this in memory of me.” And so, for over 2,000 years, we have done just that.
In the Eucharist, Jesus is truly and fully present: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. In our particular context, it is important for us to realize that this is true for both the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood. There is no division in Christ — and so in both the Sacred Host and Precious Blood independently we receive all of Jesus. As we return to the practice of distributing Holy Communion via the Chalice, we should not fear that choosing not to receive from the Chalice means that we are only receiving a part of Jesus. Even if we were to receive the smallest fragment of the Sacred Host or a single drop of the Precious Blood, we receive all of Him.
We can see then, in the Eucharist Jesus offers us all of Himself, holding nothing of Himself back. But why? The answer is found in the second part of what my father would whisper to me at Mass: “He loves you.” He loves us, and so He offers us all of Himself. Yet, this offering is also a model for us, because as our response to this wondrous gift we receive, He desires one thing in return: that we give Him all of ourselves. In other words, His desire is that we enter into a deep, intimate and personal relationship with Him.
A key to understanding this relationship is this: There is only one Jesus. Now, that may sound silly, but oftentimes we find ourselves thinking of Jesus in the Scriptures as being different from the Jesus we encounter in the Eucharist. Remember though, there is no division in Christ — and so He is one and the same.
When we realize this, we can begin to see the depth of the beauty before us at every Mass. Jesus, who turned water into wine, cured the sick, made the blind see, the lame walk and the dead rise to life, who cast out unclean spirits and fed the multitudes, who calmed the storm and walked on the water — Jesus at the Last Supper, Jesus on the Cross, Jesus risen from the dead and who is alive. He is one and the same Jesus that we receive in the Eucharist. He is the same Jesus who still works wonders today in His Church and who desires to encounter us and do what He always does: Change everything.
And yet, we may see that we participate in Mass, receive the Eucharist, and everything stays the same. You see, He is so kind and will never force Himself into our lives — and so we are able to receive Him and now allow Him to transform us.
During this time of Eucharistic Revival, then, let’s do things differently. Let’s allow ourselves to truly encounter Him and be transformed by Him — because in the Eucharist, we see the wonderful truth that Jesus is here, and He loves us.
Father Anthony L. Cecil Jr. is the pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Church and a participant in the Mathis Liturgical Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame.