By Eric Sammons (5/18/2012)
Each spring the Catholic Church has the joy of seeing many young people privileged to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for the first time. What a glorious event! All Catholics remember their first communion – the moment when they first receive Jesus in an intimate way and are united to Him through this great Sacrament.
But this is just a first communion – hopefully the first of many communions. As the food that sustains one on their pilgrimage to heaven, it is important that all receive the Blessed Sacrament frequently. It is also important to pray for that first communicants remain close to our Lord in the Eucharist throughout their lives.
A common question among Catholics is why the faithful must receive communion on a regular basis? What purpose does it serve?
First, the Eucharist brings one into a deeper union with Christ. Through Baptism, all become a child of God and enters into the Church. The Eucharist then draws them more deeply into union with Christ. The Lord said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) Through the Eucharist, one may become more and more like Christ, that one might say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
According to St. Augustine Christ tells the faithful, â€śI am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me. And you will not change me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me.â€ť (St. Augustine, Confessions 7:10) By receiving our Lord sacramentally, one becomes more like Him.
Secondly, the Eucharist brings one into deeper union with the Church, the Body of Christ. The Catechism says that “the Eucharist makes the Church,” (CCC 1395); meaning that without the Eucharist, there would be no Church, just a collection of men and women that would eventually dissolve through petty bickering and divisions. But through the Sacrament of the Eucharist – the “Sacrament of Unity” – the Church is more than a man-made institution, it is a divine institution, mystically united through Christ. Not merely a social organization or a political party, the Church is one Body.
St. Paul wrote, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
By participating in the Eucharist, which is a participation in the sacrificial offering of Christ on the Cross, one unites themselves to the Body of Christ, the Church. This further unites all members of the Church into one, here on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven. This â€ścommunion of saintsâ€ť says that we are on pilgrimage together to our eternal reward. This intimate unity is a wonderful gift our Lord has given all Catholics.
All benefit in a multitude of ways by receiving communion regularly. There is a gain of grace against sin, forgiveness of venial sins, and strength for the spiritual life; regular reception of the Eucharist is essential for a strong spiritual life. Thank God for the gift of the Eucharist. May one receive Him as frequently as able, with hearts full of gratitude and joy.
Eric Sammons is the Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization. He can be contacted at 941-484-9543 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.