How would our lives be different if we lived 2,000 years ago and actually got to witness Jesus perform miracles or had the chance to meet Him personally? Would our faith be greater? Would we trust Him more? In today’s hectic world, many people would welcome the chance to be healed by Jesus or just to be able to speak with Him from time to time. Think about how you would react if it was announced that Jesus Christ would be appearing in person at your local Catholic parish and tickets would be available on a “first come, first served” basis. The stampede of people would be unimaginable. The good news is that He is truly appearing at every Catholic church in the world! The bad news is that many Catholics don’t even realize it.
One day St. Teresa of Avila heard someone say, "If only I had lived at the time of Jesus… If only I had seen Jesus… If only I had talked with Jesus…" She responded, "But do we not have in the Eucharist the living, true and real Jesus present before us? Why look for more?" Whether we know it or not, all of us who are Catholic have personally met Jesus. I am not speaking in a spiritual or figurative sense; we have actually met the one and only Savior of the world. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus is present in the same way now as when He walked on the earth. If this is true, however, then why is it so difficult to comprehend? There is actually a simple explanation and it has to do with our senses and how they process information. We’re human and have been given senses to help us function in the world. We use our senses to differentiate one thing from another. If an object looks, smells, feels and tastes like an apple, we draw the conclusion that the object is indeed an apple. From an early age, we are trained to obey our senses. In the case of the Eucharist, we must learn to ignore our senses and rely instead on our faith. When we receive Holy Communion, our senses tell us that we are receiving ordinary bread and wine, but our faith reminds us that it is truly the Body and Blood of Our Lord. While this can be difficult, I have developed a simple method for helping us to remember the Lord’s Real Presence, based upon the commonly used acronym “RSVP”. In this case, I will change the standard meaning from “Répondez S’il Vous Plait” to “Remember, Speak, Venerate, Practice”.
REMEMBER – We must always remember that the consecrated host actually is Jesus. Even though it doesn’t look like a body, we see Him when we look at the host. We may not realize it, but we are looking at the same Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. We are looking at the Son of God who became man, died on the cross and rose from the dead for our salvation. Despite the fact that our senses betray us, we need to recall that the small white host is really Him – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity! We must constantly remind ourselves and meditate on this great mystery; otherwise our human nature will cause us to forget this magnificent fact.
SPEAK – When speaking of the Eucharist, we should choose our words carefully. After the consecration, the bread and wine no longer exist. Through the miracle of transubstantiation, what was once bread and wine truly becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus and should be referred to as such. While it may not seem like a big deal, this careless use of words can gradually erode our respect for the Real Presence of Our Lord. Referring to “The Precious Blood” and “The Sacred Host” or “the Body and Blood” is not only an accurate description, but it reminds us that Jesus is fully present in what appears to be ordinary bread and wine.
VENERATE – The word “venerate” means to “regard with feelings of respect and reverence”. When we genuflect before the tabernacle, we should recall that we are paying homage to Our Lord and Savior and we should be respectful and reverent. In other words, our knee should touch the ground and we should think about what we are doing. We are bending our knee and humbling ourselves before the Lord and Savior of the world. It isn’t something that we should be doing in a casual manner. Of course, if a medical condition prevents proper genuflection than a bow of the head will suffice. Try thinking the words “I love you, Jesus” or “My Lord and My God” as you genuflect in order to remember to Whom you are paying respect. We also need to examine our actions and mindset when we receive the Lord in Holy Communion. If we were sick, came face to face with Jesus in His human form and were healed, how would we behave? Would we casually walk away and not acknowledge His presence or the gift of healing? I’m sure that very few people would do so. Instead we would probably throw ourselves at His feet or give Him a big hug! At the very least we would say “Thank you!” When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are personally encountering Our Lord and Savior who gives us the grace to lead a good and holy life. Keeping this in mind will help us to avoid treating this as a casual event. When the priest or extraordinary minister raises Our Lord and proclaims, “The Body of Christ”, we should make a gesture of reverence (such as a bow of the head) in order to acknowledge His presence. Holy Communion is a foretaste of what awaits us in Heaven. At that moment, we are intimately united with Our Lord and Savior and all of our earthly problems and concerns should vanish.
PRACTICE – The Eucharist is Jesus, a real person, and we should speak to Him as such. As we practice this more frequently, it becomes easier and more comfortable. Eventually we begin to think of The Eucharist as a person and not a “thing”. Upon receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, we can imagine being reunited with a long lost relative or friend. Tell Him about your worries and concerns. He wants to hear that you are frustrated with your job or concerned about a family member. He wants you to tell Him that you love Him and that you are trying your best to lead a good life. Jesus wants you to ask for the grace that you need to become a better person. At that moment, you are “in Heaven” and united with Our Lord…speak to Him! In addition, be aware that the Lord also wants to speak to you. Unfortunately, many of us miss His “words” because we don’t stop to listen or don’t know how to listen. When Jesus speaks to us, He generally doesn’t use a loud, booming voice. Instead He speaks by placing thoughts or feelings in our hearts. After receiving Holy Communion, have you ever experienced a feeling of peace or thought of something that you should be doing in your life? There’s a good chance that this is Jesus speaking directly to you. Don’t ignore Him!
As Catholics, we have the opportunity to meet Jesus at least once a week. He is also waiting for us in numerous adoration chapels around the world, where we can visit Him on a regular basis. In order to more fully understand His Real Presence, however, we must do some work. By practicing the above techniques, we can learn to better appreciate this incredible gift. So, the next time that you personally meet Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist…don’t forget to RSVP!