To give us strength to live out our daily lives, Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a great gift - the gift of Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Most Holy Eucharist, Christ gives Himself to us - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - and I must credit this great gift as my source of strength in this difficult time in my life. As Catholic faithful, we can reap the spiritual benefits of this great gift by receiving frequent Holy Communion, and by adoring Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, promising that "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in Him" (John 6:56). Since that day, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross has been re-presented to the Father in every Mass, and Christ comes to us through the consecrated hands of the priest. By repeating the words of Christ at the Last Supper, the priest calls Christ down from heaven to become present on the altar.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (died 387) said that reception of the Eucharist makes the Christian a "Christ bearer" and "one body and one blood with Him" (Catecheses, 4,3). The Council of Florence in 1439 taught: "Every effect which bodily food and bodily drink produce in our corporeal life, by preserving this life, increasing this life, healing this life, and satisfying this life - is also produced by this Sacrament in the spiritual life."
Fr. John A. Hardon's Pocket Catholic Catechism gives four excellent reasons to frequent this Sacrament of Love:
1. Holy Communion preserves the supernatural life of the soul by giving the communicant supernatural strength to resist temptation, and by weakening the power of concupiscence. It reinforces the ability of our free will to withstand the assaults of the devil. In a formal definition, the Church calls Holy Communion "an antidote by which we are preserved from grievous sins" (Council of Trent, October 11, 1551).
2. Holy Communion increases the life of grace already present by vitalizing our supernatural life and strengthening the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit we possess. To be emphasized, however, is that the main effect of Communion is not to remit sin. In fact, a person in conscious mortal sin commits a sacrilege by going to Communion.
3. Holy Communion cures the spiritual diseases of the soul by cleansing it of venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sin. No less than serving as an antidote to protect the soul from mortal sins, Communion is "an antidote by which we are freed from our daily venial sins" (Council of Trent, October 11, 1551). The remission of venial sins and of the temporal sufferings due to sin takes place immediately by reason of the acts of perfect love of God, which are awakened by the reception of the Eucharist. The extent of this remission depends on the intensity of our charity when receiving Communion.
4. Holy Communion gives us a spiritual joy in the service of Christ, in defending His cause, in performing the duties of our state of life, and in making the sacrifices required of us in imitating the life of our Savior.
The Blessed Sacrament is a great gift from God. Are we as thankful as we should be? Do we examine our consciences properly to ensure that we are receiving this gift worthily? By receiving Holy Communion, we receive Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. How lucky we would be to experience this miracle one time in our lives, but God allows us to do so each and every day, if we wish. How undeserving we are of such a gift!
In addition to frequent Holy Communion, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament consoles us in the most difficult of times. Eucharistic Adoration is the act of honoring Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. During Adoration, we gaze upon Our Lord in contemplation, allowing our hearts to be transformed and filled with Christ's love. St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote of this act: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the Sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: By not only celebrating the Eucharist, but also by praying before It outside of Mass, we are enabled to make contact with the very wellsprings of Grace ..."
In Adoration, we abandon ourselves to Jesus. We speak to him about our concerns, joys, shortcomings, disappointments, and aspirations. In the process, we open our hearts to hear the voice of Jesus, which my beloved spiritual father describes as His "still, small voice." In abandoning ourselves to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, it is impossible not to leave renewed, strengthened, and joyful.
To those who ask how it is possible to be joyful in suffering, and how to become strong when we are weak, I can only point to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Many years ago, I heard a sermon about the life of Saint Peter the Apostle. Throughout Christ's ministry and at Our Lord's Passion, Peter was weak and scared. He was afraid of a servant girl who accused him of knowing Jesus, and Peter eventually denied Christ three times. Thirty-three years later, Peter was also facing crucifixion as a martyr for the Faith. He joyfully and fearlessly faced death, declaring "I am not worth to die in the same manner as My Lord. Please crucify me upside down." The cruel guards could not deny his brave request, and Saint Peter was crucified upside down on a cross.
What changed Peter during those thirty-three years was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Blessed Eucharist. Peter held Jesus Christ in his hands each and every day, and gazed upon the Author of Love before receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist. The weak Peter became the strong Peter through the gift of the Eucharist. May we also allow ourselves to be changed and transformed by the Blessed Sacrament, no matter how difficult our lives may seem.