Knowing that he was to die the Cross for them, Jesus identifies himself with the bread that is broken and shared, and it becomes for him the “sign” of the sacrifice that awaits him. This process reaches its climax at the Last Supper, where they truly do become his Body and his Blood. It is the Eucharist that Jesus leaves to us with a precise purpose: so that we may become one with him. In fact, he says: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him” (v. 56). That “abiding”: Jesus in us and us in Jesus. Communion is assimilation: in eating Him, we become like Him. But this requires our “yes,” our adherence in faith.
Sometimes one hears this objection regarding the Holy Mass: “But what good is Mass? I go to Church when I feel like it, or I pray better alone.”
But the Eucharist is not private prayer or a beautiful spiritual experience. It is not a simple commemoration of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. In order to understand well, we say that the Eucharist is a “memorial,” i.e. an act that makes present the event of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus: the bread is really his Body given for us, the wine is really his Blood poured out for us.
The Eucharist is Jesus who gives himself entirely to us. Nourishing ourselves on Him and abiding in Him through Eucharistic communion, if we do so in faith, transforms our lives into a gift to God and to our brothers and sisters. Nourishing ourselves on the “Bread of life” means entering into harmony with the heart of Christ, assimilating his choices, his thoughts, his behavior. It means entering a dynamism of love and becoming people of peace, people of forgiveness, reconciliation, and supportive sharing … the same things that Jesus did.
Jesus concludes his discourse with these words: “He who eats this bread will live for ever” (Jn 5:58). Yes, to live in real communion with Jesus on this earth makes us already pass from death to life. Heaven begins precisely in this communion with Jesus. And in heaven our Mother Mary already awaits us — yesterday we celebrated this mystery [of the Assumption]. May she obtain this grace to nourish ourselves in faith on Jesus, the Bread of life.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.