"If we had no priests, we would have no Eucharist"
Deacon Kevin Mukri preached (on John 6:51-58, my favorite Gospel) at the Mass I celebrated this weekend. His words which are below were clear, profound, and inspiring. Believing that what I had just heard was from the Holy Spirit, I whispered to him when he returned to his seat, "awesome"!
"The Jews are scandalized by Our Lord’s command to eat His body and drink His blood. This was cannibalism. They could not believe. Two thousand years later, most still do not believe Our Lord. With over 26,000 Christian denominations in the United States, only... the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox) ensures that believers eat His body and drink His blood. But far more tragic are reports that 70% of Roman Catholics believe that the Holy Eucharist is only a symbol of Our Lord.
The Eucharist is an incredible gift, the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of Our Lord Himself. But what happens to us when we receive the Holy Eucharist? One way to understand is to look at natural law. It is a fact of natural law that lower nature is always assimilated by higher nature.
Plants assimilate the chemical elements from the ground. The chemicals receive a higher existence in the plants. Plants are often eaten and assimilated by animals. The plants receive a higher nature as part of animal nature. We eat beef/pork/fish and it is assimilated into a higher nature, our human nature. When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we don’t change the body and blood of Christ into our nature, but Our Lord changes us into His higher, divine nature.
This is amazing.
In 2003, Pope John Paul II, of his blessed memory, released his encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” in order to rekindle the Eucharist “amazement” by the faithful. It is a marvelous letter on the Eucharist, but there are two points that are extremely important: The first is that the Eucharist is an expression of our communion with Our Lord, both the visible dimension and invisible dimension. We express our visible communion with Our Lord by attending Mass today and saying the Nicene Creed.
Our invisible communion with Our Lord is our own spiritual life and attempts for conversion. Because the Eucharist is the supreme sacrament of the living, this communion cannot be obtained by those “dead” through mortal sin. This is why Our Lord established the sacrament of Reconciliation to ensure we have His help and forgiveness on our earthly journey—a close bond exists between the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
The second point is that Our Lord did not leave us without giving us the means to receive His body and blood. Through His command to “do this in memory of me,” Our Lord left us a great gift, the priesthood, received through Episcopal succession going back to the apostles, and perfected through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Because the Eucharist is a sacrifice, if we had no priests, we would have no Eucharist. Could it be that the growing shortage of priests is a result of the high percentage of Catholics who say that the Eucharist is only a symbol? I think so. But the Holy Father said we can reverse this trend by praying for vocations and inspiring young men to answer Christ’s call by our conscious, active and faithful participation in the Eucharist.
If we strive for conversion, Our Lord thorough His body and blood will absorb us into His Divine Nature, give us His peace, love and joy, and use us to bring his peace, love and joy to our family, friends, society and world. When our journey is over, He will keep His promise that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”" (Jn 6:54).