Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus speak the words “I love you” until he is seated at the Last Supper. But never are we in doubt about the overwhelming love radiating from this man in attention to every need, in his preaching, his healing, his miracles, his mercy toward sinners, his tenderness to the poor, his compassion for the afflicted.
The Eucharist is Christ’s way of assuring us how much he loves us. This love will not let us forget that “it was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you” (Jn 15:16). Jesus wants us to be with him — his guest at the Last Supper table. It is there that he calls us friends. Jesus’ love is constant invitation. As we accept, we instinctively move to the lowest place, pained by our unworthiness. He sees and beckons, Come up higher. Come here and sit beside me. Come with all the weariness that weighs you down, and lay your head on my breast. “We rest against his breast and are lulled by the heartbeats of God” (Catherine de Hueck Doherty).
Love that is merely lip service, a sentiment, can never satisfy the need we experience as a hunger. Christ gives his love to us as food, as the Bread of Life … the Bread of Love. The Host that we consume consumes us. Through the Eucharist, the love of Jesus is inside us. His is a love that constantly nourishes us.
Christ’s love in the Eucharist is his Body given, his Blood poured out for us. It is a sacrificial love. And sacrifice, wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, “consists in becoming totally receptive towards God and letting ourselves be completely taken over by him.” We receive Jesus’ sacrificial love in the Eucharist by participating personally in his sacrifice. The truest sacrifice is to recognize a Presence, affirming this Presence instead of ourselves with all our preoccupations.
And even if we are steeped in the guilt and shame of sin, the love of Jesus will not abandon us. He promises that the sacrificial offering of himself in the Eucharist is “for the forgiveness of sins.”
The Eucharist reveals the truest, most ineradicable fact of our life: We are a relationship with God. We are part of a holy belonging. The intimacy we cannot live without is ours in Holy Communion. The repeated command of Jesus before his Passion — Remain in me. Remain in me — is possible because of the Holy Eucharist.
Installments in this series can be found each week here: Real Presence