Father, you want me to be what? A Eucharistic minister? Oh no, Father, I am not worthy! There were my responses – thirteen years ago – when my parish priest approached me to consider serving the People of God as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist (the more proper liturgical designation).
With his persistence and after the necessary training, there I was at Mass, holding a paten, and in it – the Body of Christ! Naturally shy, my impulse was to pray for communion to get over soon. But as I started distributing the Body of Christ from one parishioner to the next, I just felt the infinite generosity of God being poured like water over my head, all over me.
God is so willingly and only willingly giving us Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Then the unthinkable – I began praying that the communion line might never come to an end.
This is my body. This is my blood.
In the fourth gospel, the first time John the Baptist introduced Jesus was with the words, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NRS) With this introduction, Jesus is specifically presented as the one who is to die like the Passover lamb, whose blood – sprinkled on doorposts and lintels – became the sign of freedom from death to life (Exodus 12:3-7, 13), and whose flesh became food for the journey from the land of slavery to the Promised Land (Exodus 12:8, 24-25). Yet the Passover lamb, even as a pre-figuration of what is to come, pales in comparison with the figure, the Lamb of God, when Jesus offered himself at the Last Supper.
Mark 14:22-24 (NRS), While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Jesus offers us nothing less than his own blood and body. And his blood is not just sprinkled on us externally but offered to be drunk internally so that the very life of God – that which conquers sin and death – becomes our very own life (John 6:53-54). And his body becomes our food for the journey from this earthly life to life eternal (Mass for the Dead). We, Catholics, take Jesus’ words so seriously that we believe in the Real Presence: the consecrated bread and wine is Jesus – body and blood, soul and divinity (Catechism 1374). Can you believe it – at Mass, we receive in our hands our God whose very hands created and fashioned us?
Allowing God to be God
Just recently, a woman shared with me that she felt guilty about not going to Church on Sundays. When I asked her why, she responded, “I feel that I have to do something for God.” And I said, “That may be true. But have you considered going to Mass to simply let God do something for you?” And it was noticeable that she was taken by the question.
The reality is, we can pray anywhere and everywhere but it is only at Mass where prayers can transform ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus – and this is something unique that only God can do for us.
God continues and will continue to pour out His infinite generosity upon us like water, for eternity (Revelation 22:1). And that we bind (Latin: ligare) ourselves to this generous God is the profound essence of religious obligation. Such binding is not enslavement but rather the meaning of human freedom because God invites us to choose Him and to allow Him to release us from sin and death. The price of our freedom from sin and death is God Himself. And what have we done for God to tag us – you and me – as priceless? Nothing! Therefore, it is right and just that it is in the spirit of humility that we, the Church, gather together and celebrate the Eucharist, which by the way comes from the Greek word eucharistein which means “to give thanks.”
 In the Scriptures, blood signifies life, e.g. Genesis 9:3-4, Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.