This is the second part of a series on The Power of the Mass. Part one is available here.
I have been inspired to make clear not only the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but also the continual sacrifice of Jesus on the altar at every Catholic Church throughout the world. The same Jesus who died on the Cross for all mankind is truly alive in the Eucharist. For Catholics, this is a truth we have always known. But why do we believe what we believe?
I always knew Jesus was present in the Eucharist, but I did not always comprehend the gravity of the true presence. It was the Holy Spirit who brought me to a desire to want to understand my faith in a more complete way. He drew me to daily Mass, reading scripture and the lives of the saints, retreats and Marion conferences, and also adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which led to a deeper prayer life. Through these I began to understand my faith more fully.
Standing at Calvary
Jesus died on the Cross for us in the most brutal and bloody manner, once. During the Mass the priest, who stands in the person of Christ, offers the same sacrifice Jesus did on Calvary just in a different manner. Number 1357 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing; we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine, which by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.
At the moment the priest holds the bread and wine and utters the words of consecration, the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven and the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ. It is through the action of the Trinity that Christ is truly present under the species of bread and wine.
This is the most incredible moment, one where I am compelled to profess my profound love to Jesus. There are times He blesses me with such an overwhelming awareness of His presence that I am swept away with emotion. His love floods every part of my being and it is just me and Jesus, and this incredible love flowing between us. More often, however, I am not aware of Christ’s presence. That does not diminish what He is doing in me; I am just unaware. No matter what is or is not happening inside of you at that moment, Jesus’ love is penetrating your very being and filling you with the graces you will need to sustain you until you receive Him again. Each time we receive we are receiving the fullness of Christ.
Catholics do not believe that Jesus is crucified again in the Mass; rather, the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice where Christ is offered up to the Father for the remission of sin. Because of original sin, humanity is weak and persists in offending God, therefore we need Christ’s continual sacrifice on the heavenly altar. The Mass then is the continuation of Calvary where we honor the Lord by offering our prayers of praise and thanksgiving, as well as our petitions and needs to the Father through the Son. This makes each Mass we celebrate a personal encounter with the one Triune God. It is through our individual faith and the state of our souls as to what degree we benefit from the Mass. It cannot be denied that every Mass, every Eucharist received in a state of grace, is the most incredible gift ever given to us. A gift that is derived directly from the intimate love Jesus has for each one of us.
Following the Words of Christ
Jesus instituted the Mass at the Last Supper when He said, “Take and eat; this is my body” and, of the cup, “Drink from it all of you, for this is my blood of covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28) Jesus instituted the priesthood when he told his disciples to “do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19) These were Jesus’ words and they are why we believe what we believe: that Jesus is truly present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. And we cannot have the Eucharist without the priest. In John, which is largely rejected by many people, we read:
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 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. (John 6:53-56)
These words are simply the truth as Christ taught himself. How can the validity of Jesus’ own words be denied? He uses words like eat, feed, drink, and flesh. He said what He meant. He is God. He cannot lie. “Unless you eat” (that is, to chew, gnaw, ingest, consume) “the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53) This is a clear statement. Jesus leaves no room for doubt. What also strikes me as very powerful scriptural testimony to the truth is the story of the road to Emmaus in Luke:
And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:30-32)
Is Jesus not teaching us here? Did He not become present to them in the breaking of the bread? Jesus does become present to us in the breaking of the bread at the Mass. And He is present within us when we consume His body and blood in the Eucharist. This is the heart and center of our Catholic faith. It is what we believe.
If we believe, the Mass should be the center of our lives and nothing should come before it. St. Padre Pio once said, “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” For those of us who understand the truth, we carry Jesus with us. We are his disciples. And Jesus asks us to spread His word. To share Him, His love and His truth with those who have not yet come to know Him.
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