My youngest sister is a senior in High School and was asked to give a witness to her experience with the Holy Eucharist for an adult retreat at their church. Here is the speech that she gave:
I’m here tonight to talk to you about the Eucharist and how it’s impacted my life. We all know what the Eucharist is; if you’ve ever gone to mass you’ve received it in Holy Communion. But do we really understand? Where it comes from? Why it’s so sacred? How does it affect my daily life? How do we value or measure it? Can it even be valued or measured?
These are all questions that I asked myself as I sat down to write this talk. However, when I began to think about the Eucharist and all that it brings, including forgiveness, my mind wandered to the cross instead. I often think about the cross as a symbol of forgiveness. It appears to be one of the biggest symbols of our faith, and I constantly see it referenced with the saying “nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away our sins” however, I must remind myself that the Eucharist provides just as good a symbol of forgiveness and our faith as does the cross. For without Holy Communion, without Christ’s offering of himself to us for eternal life, then the passion lacks meaning. Jesus didn’t just die for us, but he offered himself up for us. The blood that washes away our sins comes from Jesus’ passion on the cross, however, it is in his last supper that he explains to his disciples how he gives them his body and blood and THAT is the new covenant. The Eucharist IS the FLESH and BLOOD of Jesus that saves our souls. It can be so easy for me to just walk up during communion and take it as bread and wine, but instead I constantly remind myself that it is so much more. It is a gift from God, an immeasurable gift, so valuable that I am not worthy to receive it, yet Jesus loves me so much that he will give it anyways.
It is for this reason that the Eucharist is the most powerful part of mass for me. During this time, peace and serenity surround me and I am completely alone with Jesus; able to feel his love and power. Every day I face personal crosses. I must work hard to manage my time with school, sports, community service, church, family, and friends then if there’s time maybe some sleep…I constantly feel that even though I appear to be doing so much for others and for God, I lack personal intimacy in my relationship with him. I’m always striving to do more for God and grow closer to him, yet the more I strive, the more the weight of my cross bears down on me, and causes me to feel unable. When I receive Holy Communion however, I feel relieved of the weight bearing down on me, and it is the one time I can just clear my mind and feel God’s presence. This holy experience affects me so strongly that I cannot find it elsewhere, and so I hold it dearly to my heart. After receiving Communion, I pray and I feel as though I’m right there with God, and he can read everything on my heart. I sometimes just sit in silence and welcome his presence as I begin to feel rejuvenated, healed, and loved by him like I never do at other times.
The Eucharist possesses the ability to affect me so strongly because it is a sacred miracle where we not only receive Jesus but remember him. Each week at mass while receiving Holy Communion, we unite as a community through worshiping him and reliving the paschal mystery. The power of the Holy Trinity grants us the ability to come together as one community in Jesus Christ. I have seen this in my own life with my church friends and my family. I have plenty of friends in my classes or on my team, but I lack depth in these relationships compared to those of my friends who share my faith. Through our faith, we grow closer and recognize that Jesus unites us as a family, and because of this I can come to them with anything. In the same way, I have seen the effects of this sense of community within my family. I have two wonderful parents and three older sisters that I look up to for many things including their faith. We are all faithful Catholics and help lead, teach, and guide each other in our walks of faith. If there was not something we could believe in to unite us, we would not be able to use our different gifts to unite as one, yet in the body of Christ we can do just that; we become not just a family but one body in Christ.
It is because of this very fact that Communion is so sacred. During communion, Jesus intercedes for us to the Father and it is through him that our sins are forgiven and our prayers are answered. We are not just sharing a meal; we are sharing a mystery–When we say the prayer before communion, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Jesus hears our plea for forgiveness and washes away our sins so that we may reunite with him and accept him into our hearts.
While all of this is what the power of Communion can do for you and the reasons it is so sacred, you may be asking yourself how to reach this level of intimacy and holiness with communion. The answer lies in the word “desire.”…. We must desire to know, love, and receive Jesus so that we may receive eternal life as well. Jesus doesn’t ask the people to eat of his flesh and blood, he tells us to. THIS is the way to eternal life. If we keep this in mind: if we think about the fact that he doesn’t say do this as a symbol of me, he says this is my body, if we can make ourselves picture Jesus himself standing at the foot of the altar when we walk up to receive holy communion—then—we will truly understand the value of the Eucharist. The holiness, the sacredness, if we can cause our minds to realize that Jesus is there—present in mass—then we will grow to desire him and love him. Communion will no longer be something we simply eat but it will become a part of our lives because as we realize that Jesus is there within us, that realization will change our hearts and cause them to desire to live as him, and love him and others with all our heart, mind, and strength.
When we just begin to reach this level of understanding and intimacy with the Eucharist, it creates profound effects on our community life. I have witnessed for myself the effects of this desire. Through receiving communion, I receive Jesus into my hearts and soul, and give him a welcoming home. Accepting Jesus, and recognizing the value and sacredness of the Eucharist however, is not something I obtained over night. I made my first communion in 2nd grade. As a child, I grew up in a faithful family and I’ve always felt close to God, so I knew my 1st communion was a very special moment. I can still go back and read my diary and remember how excited I was to make it, I remember pretending our treadmill was an aisle and practicing walking down it to receive communion, yet I didn’t fully understand why it was so special. As I’ve grown over the past 7 years I’ve greatly increased my understanding of faith through prayer and reflection. I started increasing my desire to know Jesus by reading my bible and getting drawn into the mysterious of God, after that I began to pray more, I began reading Catholic books, involving myself in church, praying the rosary, and asking God to deepen my faith. As these changes occurred, I found myself dying to selfishness and instead rising to service. My own worldly desires seemed to slowly fade away as I began to desire to serve only God. I like to think of myself as a dandelion, when I desire to serve only God; I give up my life, my time and precious activities that take up my time to grant God’s wishes just like how when a dandelion dies, you blow the white seeds to make a wish. I’m still growing in my faith, but I now see communion in a whole new light…
As we grow closer to God and live a life of love, we become more united as a community and we begin to share in a life that is loved. We are united by sharing the sacrament of the Eucharist. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul says: “the cup that we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread that we break: when we eat it we are sharing in the body of Christ. Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share in the same loaf.” When we embrace this unity, this oneness in Christ, through the holy Eucharist, as a community we can accomplish great things. We can learn to accept others as they are, to see the poor, the outcasts, the hurting, as the beautiful creations of God that they are. We can come together to love and serve God each with our own special gifts and the community as a whole will grow closer to Christ through his unfailing love and grace. With God guiding us from the inside out, there’s nothing we can’t do! We receive him into our bodies and he uses us, he blows his seeds all around the world to go spread his word and heal and comfort the sick and hurting… The Eucharist is God’s greatest gift because it coincides with his passion, his giving of his life to SAVE OUR SOULS. When we truly accept it, it recreates us into a church of people eager to let the light of God explode out of them, to show the world Christ’s love…
When we walk up the aisle during communion with our crosses, we are walking up to Jesus.
Just as God can take any form, Jesus takes the form of the bread and wine we share. And although we are unworthy it is the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins, and he offers it to us as an immeasurable gift that has been around since Jesus’ last supper. He only says but one word and heals, unites, and accepts us,—in return, we need only to open our hearts and let him in and he will begin to change our lives from the inside out.
So I pray, as I end my witness, may we reflect on the sacredness and power of the Eucharist. When we walk up to the aisle next time, and for the rest of our lives, we not see it as bread and wine, but instead see Jesus standing there, smiling, ready to welcome us in.