By Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel
Special to The Texas Catholic
The Holy Eucharist is a sacrament and a sacrifice in which under the form of bread and wine, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ is contained, offered and received.
The night before Our Blessed Lord was to undergo his great work of redemption, he sat down with his apostles to celebrate what they thought was the regular Passover Meal celebrated each year by all faithful Jews. He told the apostles however, that he was establishing a new covenant with God’s people. He took bread and wine, which were part of the Passover meal, and said over each: “This is my body and this is my blood, do this in remembrance of me”. This was the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
In this sacrament, this new covenant, we participate in the great work of Jesus’ Redemption which is made present in the Eucharist on the altar. Each and every time we participate at Mass, we unite ourselves to Christ who is made present under the forms of bread and wine and offer to God the most perfect worship possible, the body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ. The letter to the Hebrews reminded the early Christians that the blood of goats and rams was never sufficient for the forgiveness of sins; only the sacrifice of the true “Lamb of God” could suffice for the forgiveness of all sin for all time. The same sacrifice of our Savior that occurred 2,000 years ago on the cross is made present on the altar in each and every Mass. St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that “as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the death of the Lord until his coming in glory”. Proclaiming the death of the Lord proclaims the forgiveness of our sins and our redemption.
The Eucharist is also the true bread from heaven which promises everlasting life. After Our Lord had fed the crowds with the loaves and fishes, he told them that they should not be looking for ordinary bread but for true bread. The true bread which satisfies the hunger of the human heart is the Holy Eucharist. Jesus told the crowds, “I myself am the true bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” When some in the crowd protested, Our Lord stated even more emphatically, “My flesh is real food and my blood real drink…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life and I will raise him up on the last day”. The body and blood of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist is Jesus’ promise to us of everlasting life.
As Catholics, the Holy Eucharist is at the center of everything we are as followers of Christ. In the Eucharist Jesus’ promise of being with us until the end of time is fulfilled. The Second Vatican Council called the Eucharist the source and summit of the church’s life. Everything in the church’s life points to the Eucharist and all works and activities of the church are fueled by the Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in his beautiful Eucharistic hymn, “O holy sacrament in which Christ is received, the memory of His passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and there is given to us a pledge of eternal life.”
The Most Rev. J. Douglas Deshotel is an auxiliary bishop, vicar general and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Dallas.