Understanding the Eucharist
A reflection by Cole Hamilton
Being a Catholic for my entire life, hearing about the importance of the Eucharist is something I have been exposed to since my earliest years of education. In Catholic school, I remember being tested on my understanding of terms like Real Presence, transubstantiation, adoration, tabernacle, and Source and Summit, struggling to grasp the true meaning of so many lofty words that were difficult to understand (and if you’re struggling too, here’s a link on the Eucharist from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to help you out). Sure, I claimed to know that Christ is fully present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — when witnessing the bread and wine become Body and Blood during the Mass at a young age, but only more recently have I come to know that this characteristically Catholic vocabulary requires more than a definitional understanding on our end. Communion with the God of the universe demands us to enter into a relationship with Him.
During my senior year of high school, I began attending daily Mass a few days a week at the invitation of a priest present on campus. While I dragged myself to get up thirty minutes earlier and complained about fitting yet another thing into my busy high school schedule, I gradually realized that the days I started with Mass noticeably changed how I acted and felt throughout the day. Peace, joy, and strength to persevere through academic challenges seemed to come whether I wanted them or not, and this led me to make it to Mass as often as possible my senior year. How many times had I heard about the power of the Eucharist, meticulously studied for theology exams, and even received Communion without ever considering the life-giving relationship I was being invited to be a part of?
That simple invitation to attend a daily Mass opened my eyes to an invitation to actively receive the peace of Christ, and I was delighted to find a community centered around the Eucharist here at Catholic Gators. I can easily say that adoring our Lord in the Hurley chapel and receiving Him at Mass has continued to conform my will with His and bring me closer to Him. But now, when I inevitably fail to put that relationship with Him first in my life and feel separated from Him, I cannot help but look to my friends, family and classmates that have yet to know the immensity of God’s love for them shown through the Eucharist. Even with receiving joy in knowing Christ through the Eucharist, it often feels impossible for me to bring those around me to know Him in the same way. I knew what the Eucharist meant for close to 18 years without letting Him transform me; how could I possibly break that barrier for other people?
During my internship this past summer, this question sat heavily on my heart after a conversation I had with a fellow intern. She was a devout non-denominational Christian, and we had had many short discussions about our faith over the course of the summer. My heart was warmed to see another Christian with a true love for Jesus and I found joy in hearing her story of conversion. As she asked about my own faith journey, I paused to reflect after explaining how receiving the Eucharist and adoring Christ in the Eucharist transformed my relationship with Him. After sharing the Truth of Christ’s Real Presence in my life, I found my heart moved with a longing for her and the rest of my friends and family to come to know the same Truth. Finishing the conversation on the common ground of love for Christ, the weight remained on my heart. If my imperfect heart felt this for a handful of people in my life, how much more does the Sacred Heart of Jesus truly ache with a desire to be in deeper relationship with us?
At this parish and Catholic Gators community, we have the absolute privilege of growing in our love for the Eucharist through intellectual formation, regular reception of Holy Communion, adoration of the Real Presence and fellowship with other Catholics striving to put Christ first. If you feel even the smallest desire to put Christ at the center of your life, place yourself in His Eucharistic presence. Participate in daily Mass. Open your heart to Him in the chapel. Find joy in sharing your faith with others. If you feel unworthy, avail yourself to the overwhelming forgiveness of our loving Father through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our Lord loves you and wants you to receive Him fully. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you with a sincere heart and He will.
With Eucharistic revival within ourselves, we should take courage in bringing others to the Truth. Just as we are invited, we are called to invite. Just as we receive, we are called to give. Just as we are called into relationship through the Eucharist, we must call others into that same relationship. The Church, of course, needs to uphold and promote sound teaching on the Eucharist, but we the faithful need to support each other by showing what it means to live a life transformed by the Eucharist. As we share, we must also know that the relationship we are invited into with our Lord is not a stagnant one; we should always be open to how the intimate love of God calls us closer and closer to Him. If we consistently place ourselves in the Lord’s Eucharistic Presence and ask Him to reveal more of Himself to us, we will surely have even more to share with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us then take courage as we go further up and further in, confident that our Lord will touch the hearts of others through our growing love for Him in the Eucharist. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary bring us closer to knowing the Sacred Heart of her Son present in the most Holy Eucharist.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.