PART 3 – THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
The Church commands us Catholics to go to Holy Mass every Sunday. Most of our Catholics faithfully observe this commandment. Some Catholics neglect the Sunday Mass, or they go when they like! It is difficult to know what understanding they have on the Holy Mass.
The Church believes and teaches:
(i) that in the celebration of the Holy Mass, we participate in the very sacrifice of Jesus on the cross being perpetuated, made present, and offered to God as a great worship to honour and glorify God.
(ii) that in the Holy Communion we receive Jesus for a loving union with Jesus, who comes to nourish and enrich our spiritual life which we received at our Baptism. Yes, Jesus truly comes to us in Communion.
With this understanding of the Mass and Communion, more and more of our Catholics come to the Mass and receive communion not only on Sundays, but on weekdays too.
1. The Sacrament of the Eucharist
The word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving”. This is the principal meaning and purpose of this sacrament: it is meant to enable the Church and all her members to offer a worthy worship, praise and thanksgiving to our God, our Creator and Lord.
Here we have the faith and teaching of the Church on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1323).
“At the Last Supper, on the night He (Jesus) was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. This He did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice on the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a Memorial of His Death and Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal Banquet ‘in which (Jesus) Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, ad a pledge of future glory is given to us’.”
This is a very important faith and doctrine of the Church on this Sacrament.
2. Explanation of this doctrine of the Church on the Sacrament of the Eucharist
(a) At that Last Supper Jesus held with His apostles, Jesus knew the time fixed by God his Father had come for him to offer his life and death on the cross as a holy sacrifice to God his Father for the salvation of the world, which would take place on the following day (Good Friday). He decided to institute a sacrament to be the means with which, his sacrifice on the Cross be remembered and perpetuated (continued) in his Church until his return at the end of time.
(b) The sacrament Jesus instituted at the Last Supper is the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Gospels of Matthew (26:26-28) and of Luke (22:19) faithfully recorded the institution of this sacrament. This was how Jesus instituted this sacrament. At the Last Supper Jesus changed (consecrated) bread and wine into his Body and Blood, and gave his disciples to eat and drink; and then he commanded the disciples to do exactly as he did with his power in his Memory (to remember him).
(c) As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (for example, 2:42) the disciples faithfully obeyed and did as Jesus commanded, whenever they gathered the Christians for teaching and prayer, and for offering thanks to God.
(d) They faithfully passed this command with the power they received to those whom they appointed as their Successors and the Elders of the communities of Christians (Bishops and Priests in the Church) to continue to do what Jesus commanded in the celebration of the Sacrament of Eucharist with their communities.
(e) When a Bishop or a Priest is celebrating the Holy Mass, he celebrates the Sacrament of Eucharist, and he uses the power (received in the Sacrament of Holy Orders), says the very words of Jesus over bread and wine, and he changes (consecrates) the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, and he gives those present “the Body of Christ” in Communion.
(f) We firmly believe, that in the celebration of the Mass, bread and wine are truly changed into the very Body and Blood of Jesus, and that we truly receive Jesus (whole and living) in Communion.
3. More explanation on this sacrament
In the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the Holy Mass,
(a) We are present at the very Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, which is celebrated in his memory; and with Jesus we offer his Sacrifice as our worship, praise and thanksgiving to our God our Father in heaven.
(b) This is truly “A sacrament of love,” in which we share Jesus’ love, and we share it with one another as our loving brothers and sisters in the Lord.
(c) This sacrament is “a sign of unity and a bond of charity,” which indeed strengthens our unity and love with Jesus, with the Church and all its members.
(d) The celebration of this sacrament is a sacred banquet in which we remember the Paschal Mystery, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
(e) This sacrament in which we participate is “A pledge”, an assurance given by Jesus for our future glory in heaven.
4. The Church calls this sacrament as “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Catechism, no. 1324).
This means: (a) When we participate in the celebration of the Holy Mass, we offer God the highest worship, love and thanksgiving to our God and Creator. In this sense, the Eucharist is, indeed, the “summit” of our Christian life.
(b) In Communion our life is nourished and enriched when we receive “The Body of Christ” from the priest. In this sense, the Eucharist is truly the “source” of our Christian life.
5. How should we participate worthily in the holy Mass?
(a) The Church emphasizes that we must participate in the Mass with full attention of our mind and heart. We join in the singing, in prayers, in listening to God’s Word in the readings, in the preaching, and in following the priest as he celebrates the Mass. We must never be ‘on-lookers’ like watchers at a TV programme or a film-show, or playing our handphone.
(b) Dress ourselves suitably when we come to the Mass, as we would when we go to attend a wedding dinner or an important function. How then have we dressed ourselves? – with a collarless Tshirt? with shorts or mini-dress? with slippers? Never go to church for the Mass in such unworthy attires!
(c) You should try to come to the Mass, at least, a few minutes before the Mass begins, so that you have time to prepare yourself for the Mass.
6. What preparation and thanksgiving we should make for Communion?
(a) Before Communion: we should have faith in our heart and think of Jesus; and as we go forward to receive Communion, we truly welcome Jesus into our heart.
(b) While Jesus is in our heart, we remember, this is a golden time we have now with Jesus. Give him our love, speak to Him, ask Him for our needs and pray for our family and for those we want to help.
(d) Think how you have prepared for receiving Jesus in Communion, and how did you welcome Jesus? I am afraid to say: many received Jesus in Communion unworthily because they have no preparation, perhaps they might have serious sins without going to confession! Communion means nothing for them!