Roughly six months after my conversion, I had what I like to think of as my first real “revelation” surrounding Church teaching—specifically the Eucharist.
I was sitting in Mass with my wife, trying to pay attention while simultaneously attempting to contain my fidgety baby boy. At that point in my Catholic life, I had long since accepted Church teaching on the Eucharist. I had read the scripture, the books, the essays, I’d attended Mass, discussed it in RCIA, and I fully believed that it was the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday since I was confirmed, I knew that when I stepped up to the front of the communion line, I was receiving Christ.
But here’s the thing, I spent years as a Southern Baptist drinking grape juice and eating tiny crackers made of sawdust believing that the whole “This is my Body” ordeal was a just a big ‘ol symbol for…something. Despite the fact that I really and truly did believe that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ, I still felt like there was a mental block somewhere. It was like I understood it, but I didn’t fully get it. Get it?
So, I prayed. I prayed at every Mass for Christ to reveal himself to me through the Eucharist. I wanted him to break me, punch me in the gut, and make me see this sacrifice for what it really is.
That particular Sunday was no different. I said a little prayer from my kneeler, and when it was time to get up, I made my way to the Communion line.
I can’t remember the hymn, but I do remember it being really beautiful and touching. As I slowly walked behind my wife to the front of the Church, I felt compelled to look upwards at the enormous, incredibly detailed crucifix hanging above. (Seriously, this thing is a piece of work)
It wasn’t the first time I’d ever looked upon our crucifix, and it certainly wasn’t my first time seeing a depiction of Christ on the cross. But for whatever reason, I started meditating on the passion and focusing on whom that really was hanging there, nailed to two pieces of wood, broken, bloodied, and humiliated.
It wasn’t just some guy named Jesus. It wasn’t some troublemaker, or revolutionary, or some pest to Rome. It wasn’t just a teacher, or a prophet, or a “really good dude”. That was God, my God, the creator of the universe, who is love, who is truth, who spoke our world into existence. He made himself flesh, and let his very own creation strip him, beat him, and kill him. And for what?
Us. Me. You. The entire human race: an undeserving group of sinful, selfish, ignorant, stupid people who are entirely deserving of Hell and eternal separation from God. But lucky for us, our Lord loves us so much that He, an all knowing, all powerful, omniscient, eternal being that exists outside of time itself, became man through Christ and died for us.
It’s like when a parent takes responsibility for something really stupid that their child did, except multiplied by infinity.
I was gazing up at the crucifix with those vivid thoughts burning in my head, and I realized that it was my turn to receive. I stepped up, bowed, and Father presented the Body to me.
“The Body of Christ.”
It wasn’t the first time those words had been spoken to me, but it was the first time I think I’d ever heard them, and I mean really heard them.
The. Body. Of. Christ.
In my imperfect, undeserving hands, I held the Body of Christ.
Our God didn’t just sacrifice himself for us; He took it a step further. He gave us his body to take and eat. EAT! To ingest, chew, swallow, and put in our imperfect, human bodies. He offered himself to us—totally, fully, unconditionally—so that we could feed our spiritual hunger, so that we could have salvation. That’s how much He loves us.
How could we possibly comprehend that?
I took the body. I ate it. I went back to my seat, and I prayed. Hard. I was broken. You get what you ask for, I guess.
As someone who’s been at least somewhat of a Christian his entire life, I’d spoken about the love of God before. I’d written about it. I’d shared it. But this was the first time I’d ever really felt it. It was the first time I looked that realization in the face, and saw the infinite, unfathomable love that God has for me—for all of us.
There’s that gut punch.
Of course, this barely scratches the surface of the truth and theology behind the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This is just how Christ revealed it to me. This is how he answered my prayers. I think what I find so special about this revelation is that there was no bright light, no vision, no voice. It was quiet, gentle, yet humbly overwhelming.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When you open yourself to the Lord, he will deliver. Right on the heels of this revelation came another, which was: It’s okay if you don’t fully get it, more of which I will talk about next time.