3 Ways the Eucharist Comforts
Pain is one of the universal realities of our human existence. How can we deal with pain in a meaningful way? Pain receives meaning when it connects us with others. When we are alone in our suffering, we lose all sense of meaning. We are looking for a friend, someone who can sustain us in those bitter moments. Jesus is one who understands pain and suffering, since he underwent it first. Jesus is the one who sustains us through the gift of the Eucharist.
How does the Eucharist sustain us in the Christian faith? It is a sacrament, probably the one that is most familiar to us as Catholics. We are aware of Baptism. We have all been invited to this celebration for friends and family. We know of Confirmation. This is the sign of our growing up in the faith. However, Eucharist is something we celebrate every Sunday, so it is much more familiar to us.
Through the Eucharist, Jesus invites us to lean on him, to find in him our sure support. (cf. Ps. 46:1) He wants to sustain us. Not only did God create us; he maintains our existence through his Providence. Now, to understand how the Eucharist can sustain us, we need to know what we mean by “sacrament.”
What is a sacrament?
What is a sacrament? In Latin, we could use the definition “signum sacro sanctum efficax gratiae.” It is a holy sign that causes grace to come about. Grace is a gift freely given. A sacrament is something tangible that signifies a hidden grace. Through baptism, the pouring of water with the words of the sacrament effects the transformation into an adopted son or daughter of God. In the Eucharist, it is what appears to be bread that communicates to us the real presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In Church language, we will often hear of the Eucharist as “the source and summit of Christian life.” (cf. CCC 1324, Lumen Gentium 47) What does this mean? Everything comes from the Eucharist. It is the source. Just as a brook may be fed by an underground spring, all grace that we receive in the Church comes from Jesus. Jesus is present really, sacramentally, in the Eucharist. Everything is focused on getting to the Eucharist. It is the summit. When we are hiking up a mountain, we are looking forward to reaching the top. We feel a sense of accomplishment. Receiving and worshiping the Eucharist gives us the most we can ask for during our earthly existence. As Christians, we come from the Eucharist and are headed for the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is a sacrament of communion, contact, and contemplation.
Sign of communion
The Eucharist is a sign of communion. (cf. CCC 1324) Communion means that various parts are coming together to form a new unity. Through the Eucharist, we enter mystical communion with the other members of the Church. This means that we do not join physically, but we are being created into something new that is truly united. “We are one Body, because we partake of the same bread.” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:17) The Eucharist is the sign that God is active and present in the world. He cares about us and what happens in our world. Our worship of the Eucharist is valuable because it proves that we are interested and engaged with God’s action in the world.
Real contact with God
The Eucharist allows us to get into contact with God in a real way. (cf. CCC 1325) We say that Christ is “sacramentally present” in the Eucharist. He is there really: body, blood, soul, and divinity. What we see are bread and wine, but our senses deceive us. It is Jesus himself who is there. Once the priest pronounces the words of consecration over the bread and wine, Jesus is truly present. This is why we genuflect when we enter in a church where the Blessed Sacrament is present. We are showing respect and veneration for the Eucharistic Lord who is present.
Looking forward to Heaven
Through the Eucharist, we contemplate future things. We see that which “is already, but not yet.” Heaven is waiting for us. We want to get there, but not quite yet. We look forward to Heaven. (cf. CCC 1326) In Heaven, we will experience communion with Christ. Nothing will separate us from him. We will enjoy perfect happiness. Through the Eucharist, we receive a foretaste of heavenly communion during our earthly existence.
Through the Eucharist, God establishes a relationship with us. He comes close to us and helps us through our suffering. He calls us to communion, to contact with him and to contemplation of future things. The next time you are visiting the Eucharist, you can think about these three elements and talk about them with Jesus.
Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the catholic church (2nd ed.). Our Sunday Visitor.
Vatican Council. (1965). Dogmatic constitution on the Church: Lumen gentium [Light of the peoples].