For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me, and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (John 6:56-57).
The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) invites us to pause and reflect upon the gift of the Eucharist in our own lives. Our reception of the Eucharistic bread and wine is not a “me and Jesus” feel good experience, but rather an encounter with the Real Presence of Christ that is meant to send us into the world to be Eucharist for one another. Jesus assures us that “whoever feeds on me will have life because of me.” The life that we receive in the Eucharist summons us to love and care for our neighbor: the poor, the marginalized, the ignorant, and the sinful. For us to care for someone, we must be willing to meet people where they are on their spiritual journey, and not where we think they should be. Allow me to share a personal story with you.
I was born in 1952, and I was the product of a “mixed marriage,” that is, my dad was Catholic and my mom was Lutheran. Growing up in the 1950’s, the well-meaning teachers at my Catholic grammar school used to tell me that my mom was going to hell because she was not Catholic. This was very terrifying for an eight-year-old little girl to hear. My mother used to reassure me that there was only one God, and many ways to pray to him. Her simple love for Jesus always calmed my fears, and gave me hope that, despite what my teachers said, we would all be together in heaven one day.
When I was thirty-six years old, my mom developed lung cancer and her health declined rapidly. On the night she died, she was rushed to the emergency room because she aspirated soup into her lungs and quickly slipped into a coma-like state. I accompanied her to the hospital and waited for the rest of my family to arrive. As I sat alone in the waiting room, a priest chaplain came up to me and said, “I’m sorry to tell you that your mom is dying. Is there anything I can do for you?” In that split second, I reverted back to that eight-year-old little girl in grammar school, and I said, “Yes, can you make her Catholic? She always wanted to become Catholic, but never had the time.” The priest just looked at me. He gently patted my shoulder and said, “Hold on, I’ll be right back.” He went into my mom’s room, and I remember thinking that he was going to make her Catholic just in time before she died. I felt so relieved. A few minutes later he came out of my mom’s room, and I asked, “Is everything alright?” He simply nodded yes, and said that everything is just fine.” My mom passed away a few hours later.
It wasn’t until I began to study theology in graduate school that I realized what really happened the night my mom died. My mother loved God her entire life, and she had a close relationship with Jesus. She didn’t need a priest on her deathbed to make her “Catholic” in order for her to be saved. My mom was already in the loving arms of God. I soon realized that I was the one he ministered to that night, not my mom. That night when I was desperately trying to save my mom’s soul, this priest responded to my childlike needs. He met me where I was at that moment, not where he thought I should be. After all, his response could have been: “What? Are you crazy? She didn’t go through RCIA!” or “She’s in a coma.” Instead he simply said, “Wait here, I’ll be back.” I know in the depths of my heart that God sent this “angel” in order to nourish me with divine hope. The Lord placed this holy man of God in my life at that critical moment so that I could freely experience Christ’s mercy and compassion, for then I would have the courage to drink deeply from the bitter chalice of death with the knowledge and assurance that my mother would indeed be in heaven with Jesus. On that night, I experienced Eucharist in a most profound way, for I experienced Eucharist in the person of the priest chaplain.
Each time we approach the Eucharistic table, we have the opportunity to become, as St. Augustine says, “The very mystery that we receive.” In becoming the Body and Blood of Christ, we then become nourishment for those who hunger and thirst for God’s mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion. Like the priest who ministered to me on the night of my mother’s death, we are called to be sensitive to the needs of others, to be pastoral, rather than preach doctrine. As the Body of Christ, we are called to offer comfort and consolation to wounded hearts, not to chastise and judge others. We are called to nourish one another with the love of Christ.
As we celebrate the Feast Day of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, may our encounter with the Eucharistic bread and wine at the altar table awaken within each of us the presence of Christ, and give us a heartfelt desire to lovingly serve our brothers and sisters with the lifeblood of our risen Lord.
“Just as the living Father sent me, and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (John 6:56-57).
By Dr. Mary Amore
In this three-part series, Dr. Mary Amore weaves together Scripture, heartwarming stories, and clear presentations of Catholic teaching.
Whether you struggle to find a reason to go to Sunday Mass every week, or you want to reawaken your love for Jesus in the Eucharist, sharing this one hour with renowned speaker Dr. Mary Amore will lead you to discover new meaning in the Eucharist for your everyday life.
Weaving together Scripture, heartwarming stories, and easy-to-understand presentations of Catholic teaching, Eucharist: A Journey of Transformation, Healing, and Discipleship, will set you on fire with love for Jesus in the Eucharist. In this three-part series, Amore invites us to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist in three ways: to be spiritually transformed, renewed in your discipleship, and spiritually healed.
This one powerful hour will forever change your experience of the Eucharist-one of the Catholic Church's greatest mysteries and daily miracles.