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Who do I receive the Eucharist for?

Julian Paparella

Friday, June 16, 2023

Photo by Parroquia de Palmares on Cathopic.

Connecting to the universal network of God’s family

Why do we receive the Eucharist? Is it simply part of a religious ritual for us? Is it a moment of intimacy with God, who gives Himself to us? Is it something that nourishes our life, or just a strange moment that’s separate from the rest of our day-to-day lives? Does receiving the Eucharist even make sense in today’s world?
Maybe the question is not simply why we receive the Eucharist, but for whom.The Eucharist is not a form of spiritual consumerism that we take insimply as individuals. The Eucharist is God in us, so that we can be united to Him and to others. Jesus came to earth to both reconcile human beings to God and  to one another. In the Eucharist, Jesus continues this work – giving Himself to us to renew, redeem, and deepen the bonds between us and God as well as among human beings. God does not unite us to Himself in a vacuum, but always in view of uniting us with one another, just as good parents do not simply want good one-on-one relationships with each of their children individually, but also to cultivate loving relationships between their children and throughout their whole family. 
So, who do we receive the Eucharist for?

Yes to God

First, our minds turn to God. In the Eucharist, God gives Himself to us. God extends an invitation to us. God wants to feed us with His very self. How are we to refuse His love? God is a loving Father who wants to feed His children. Mysteriously, He gives us Himself as food, so that by eating Him we can live by His love. After all, “we are what we eat”! God wants us to resemble Him more and more. He is close to us and He wants us to draw close to Him, to feel His love, to experience His tenderness, to receive His mercy and compassion. How beautiful it is to say “yes” in an ongoing way to this God who loves us and offers us an intimate relationship with Himself. In the Eucharist, God offers us a rendezvous where we can say “yes” anew to the love that He offers us, and be transformed by His love, which has the power to revolutionize all our relationships – with our family, friends, with those in need, and with everyone. 

For Others

Next, we can think of others. When we receive the Eucharist, what effect does this have on our way of relating to others? When we choose to nourish our relationship with God, what impact does this have on our relationship with others? The fruits that the Eucharist bears in our lives goes far beyond our imagining. When I go to Mass, I do so united in spirit not only to all the people I know – both on earth and in heaven – but also to the whole Church, and ultimately to all of humanity and all of creation. Yes, the Eucharist has cosmic proportions! Saint John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist all around the world – in basilicas, shrines, and stadiums, but also while hiking on an overturned canoe. On the basis of those experiences, he explained this cosmic dimension of the Eucharist as follows:
Even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing. […] Truly this is the mystery of the faith which is accomplished in the Eucharist: the world which came forth from the hands of God the Creator now returns to him redeemed by Christ. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 8)
Receiving the Eucharist has cosmic proportions that we can easily miss. In the very moment when Jesus unites me with Himself, He also puts me in touch in a beautiful way with many others. Christ saves us in order to be the Firstborn of a multitude of brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29) Here and now, our elder Brother is at work to unite all of us into the one family of the Father. Receiving the Eucharist, God puts us in communion with the whole world, bringing usinto the dynamic movement by which He is reconciling all of humanity to Himself. When we receive the Eucharist, we are not receiving a prize to covet for ourselves, but rather a gift of God’s love that creates a holy network, connecting the whole universe in the bonds of God’s love. This holy network is not limited to those who believe in God, belong to the Church, or receive the Eucharist. Rather, God’s grace is at work far beyond our imagining, in every place and time, in the life of every person. When we receive the Eucharist, we are cooperators with His grace, which is not meant to stop with us, but to flow through us and go far beyond us, even in ways that are invisible and unknown to us. 
In this sense, receiving the Eucharist is part of the symphony of God’s work of redeeming all of humanity and the whole universe. It is not simply something we do for ourselves, but rather as brothers and sisters in the family of humanity. It is a way of playing our part in redeeming humanity here and now. We can ask ourselves: What impact does my receiving the Eucharist have on others? For example, by receiving the Eucharist in my home parish, what may be the spiritual effects for the many victims of the war in Ukraine? Receiving God in the Eucharist, what fruits does this bear in me and around me?
God, the Father of everyone, gives us food and unites us around His table, as a good parent. Saying “yes” to His invitation to live, as His sons and daughters makes us brothers and sisters. Yes, we are united in a visible way with those who are present with us around that very table, most immediately those who are with us at church, as well as our family, friends, and coworkers. But the Eucharist also puts us in invisible communion with all those brothers and sisters of ours who may seem far off, but to whom God our loving Father is always close and near. Receiving the Eucharist is a powerful force, strengthening the relationships that are the true fabric of the universe by the grace of God’s love. 
In a time when we are all connected in so many ways, made possible by the digital network powered by the worldwide web, let us connect ourselves to the network of God’s family. The Eucharist is a way of logging in and contributing to the connectedness of the universal divine network, in which God reconciles us to Himself and one another. 

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