Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
My youngest child just received her First Communion. The priest spoke about the reality of receiving the Holy Eucharist — the body and blood, soul and divinity of our dearly beloved Lord Jesus Christ. The world sees only the hosts and the wine, because the world does not understand what a sacrament is — what this sacrament is. As Catholics, we know that sacraments are outward signs of spiritual realities — sacraments that commit to us special graces, and bring us deeper into relationship with God.
We know in particular that the Holy Eucharist, being the source and summit of our faith, is Jesus himself, offering himself to us. It should bring us to our knees in our spiritual life, to recognize we’re receiving Our Lord. I watched my daughter and her classmates beam with joy. We who are older should feel no less great happiness at being invited to partake. Jesus has not tired of our company. He invites us into greater friendship yet again. We cannot claim the innocence of youth, but despite knowing all our failings, Jesus still wants us at the table.
Upon receiving, I sat struck by the reality of this sacrament, and of all of our Catholic faith. The world sees only a building, a church structure, one of many, that closes out the world and lets in only some. The eyes of faith tell us that this faith is to be shared with all the world, for we’re commissioned by our reception of Christ to go and be sent. The world sees only the you-shall-nots, not the why of the Ten Commandments. It does not understand that we don't follow a philosophy or a mere moral code — we follow a person, Jesus Christ.
My brain wandered further, and held onto the insight that everything we are as Catholics looks, to the outside world, like less. It looks like bread and wine. It is so much more than the mere accidents.
Mary looks like a young Jewish girl, yet she is Queen of all Saints, of all Sinners, of all Angels, of all Hearts.
The King of the Universe is born in a cave. It looks like a defeat, Christ hanging on the cross, but it is Christ’s triumph.
Everything we hold, from the outside, looks like it shouldn’t matter that much. Not the unborn, because they’re small. Not the elderly, because they’ve lived a long time. Not the lepers, because they’re sick. Not the prostitutes, because they sin. Not the tax collectors, because they steal.
Through the eyes of faith, we come to see, as God wants us to see, that each of these is, like the consecrated host, so much more than the eyes of the world can see — and deserving (indeed, requiring) our love and service.
The Church is the mystical body of Christ, and must go and do as Christ did and still does. We’re to be the hands that heal, the back that helps lift the burden, the eyes that see the problems, the ears that listen to the cries of the poor, and the people who go about the business of alleviating whatever loneliness and aches of the body and soul we encounter. There are no undeserving.
We’re to bring the feast of Christ to them. To do otherwise is to squander our share in the banquet.
My daughter twirled with joy in her dress, pleased that she would receive Communion again the next day. She held onto the joy of receiving, and eagerly anticipated the next and the next and the next time, the way an engaged person leaps at the phone when her fiancée calls, or the mom beams when she feels her unborn child in her womb. She had encountered love and responded with love, eagerly awaiting the next encounter. She, and all the others in her class, were a reminder to the rest of us of how we are to receive, and what we are commissioned to do, as a consequence of that great gift.