“A student of mine once asked, ‘If it is true that the host at Mass is not just a symbol of Christ, but really Christ himself, how can we just walk up there and receive him? I mean, we aren’t good enough for that.’ There are so many things that could be said in answer to that wonderfully humble and thoughtful question, but the first and most obvious answer is, ‘You are right!’
|(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Apropos is the saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest. None of us is worthy to approach God, much less receive him. None would dare to even think of it, were it not for the decree of our Lord himself: ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’ (Jn 6:53). And so, at each Mass, when we hear repeated the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it,” humbly and gratefully, we obey.
Deeply aware of our own inadequacy, we repeat what was said 2000 years ago by a Roman centurion, 'Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” (Mt 8:8). When the centurion first proclaimed those words, and asked that his servant be healed by the mere word of authority, our Lord was pleased with the expression of such great faith. The centurion’s servant was healed without ever being touched physically by the Healer. Encouraged by this encounter, we dare to beg, “Only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”
With great faith in the power of God’s authority, we approach him, and in receiving him, we are transformed. Our dear Lord himself said, 'He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him' (Jn 6:56). Thus, St. Augustine declares in his Confessions, that through the reception of Holy Communion, Christ is not changed into us, like bodily food, but the recipient is changed into Christ. He transforms us into himself. By that transformation alone, do we dare to take God into ourselves.
The 17th century spiritual author, Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli, was describing just that transformation in his prayer to our Eucharistic Lord, '… you desire to give me the whole of yourself as food and drink for no other purpose but to transmute the whole of me into yourself … for in this way, you dwell in me, and I in you; and through this union of love, I become as you are … through the union of my earthly heart with your heavenly heart, a single divine heart is created in me'.”
(From Homiletic & Pastoral Review, A Divine Reflection: You and the Holy Eucharist by Margaret O’Reilly. See full article here.)