Eleventh Sunday In Ordinary Time
June 12 & 13, 2021
I’d like, for a moment, to ask you all to remember your first communion. However young or old you were, go back to it in your memory for a second.
I think that I remember the lead-up to my first communion more than the actual moment. I remember the combative frills of a white dress, sitting in a hairdresser’s chair for hours and being nervous about dropping the Host. I remember the party afterwards, of course. But I don’t remember the actual communion at all.
That got me thinking… how is that possible? How is it possible that I remember so many other things from that day, and not what was the most pivotal event of it all?
I remember receiving communion at NCYC, in a massive stadium among twenty thousand other young Catholics. I remember when Mr. Danny gave the youth choir communion for the first time as a deacon. I remember, at my sister’s confirmation, the way my dad took a step to the side and paused facing the altar a little longer than usual because it was the first time he received the Eucharist in a church in over a year. Like too many things, the importance of the Eucharist is something we realize slowly with time.
Someone once told me that I tend to see the world through the eyes of a poet. It’s very easy, for me, to see God in an open sky, in the colors of the clouds, in the turn of a sentence or the curve of a hand. But it was very difficult to see those in the Eucharist. At least, it is if you’re looking with your eyes.
Because with your eyes alone, it’s rather unimpressive. The Host is a little wafer: flour, oil, a bit of salt to taste. It’s flat and rather tasteless. It is a little hard to imagine a miracle in something so… prosaic.
Because the meaning of the Eucharist is not written for the eyes. It’s in the language of the soul, which is an entirely different sort of poetry. It takes time to see the celebration of the Eucharist as a miracle. To recognize that the establishment of the Mass is a gift from God, so we can constantly receive his Grace into ourselves. There is nothing God loves more than His children seeking him out in the Mass.
The Eucharist is the only one of seven sacraments in which we can receive Jesus directly, along with his grace. What a hopeful thing that is, to constantly have this way to physically return to God, to remember a great sacrifice and the hope it provides for us. Can you imagine if the institution of the Eucharist did not exist?
The Eucharist seems underwhelming if you receive it as bread alone. When you take it as a matter of course and for granted. When you are expecting an Old-Testament kind of spectacle to indicate the magnitude of the miraculous, of the impossible. The Eucharist is a very common sort of miracle. You can be forgiven for forgetting so, every once in a while.
And then recall: we were not left with bread alone, but the very body of the Lord. But I have to remind myself of all these things. Of the miracle. Of the gift. Because while the eyes can make much poetry out of the world, if you don’t see with your soul, then all you will see is a flat little piece of bread.
The Eucharist, at least to me as a young adult, is still something I am learning to understand. We call it a mystery for good reason. If nothing else, when you have quiet time in front of the sacrament and you aren’t sure what to say or ask, unwind into the silence and listen; not with your ears or with your eyes or any of the senses. The Eucharist, like God, exists as a sensation of the soul, a wild and unsettlingly different type of poetry, which takes a lifetime to unravel its meaning.