The doctrine of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist does something amazing: It makes the least learned Christians equal to the highest mystics.
That’s because the sacrament wordlessly teaches to the devout what high theology strains to spell out: Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, and he wants to be united with us.
A simple thought experiment shows how clear the meaning of the Eucharist is.
Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” If you say “Amen” to communion, said St. Augustine, “Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true.”
To understand what this means, picture the Mass offering you something else at those moments.
Imagine the priest blessed boards, hammers, and nails, and instead of saying “this is my body,” said “Build the great house!” Then imagine each person came forward and received a hammer and nails and boards.
It would be obvious what was going on: This group planned on building a special house, and each person was committing themselves to the project.
Or imagine the priest blessed an armory of weapons, spoke about a great battle, and gave each person a sword. That message would be obvious too: It would be our commissioning ceremony as soldiers meant to go and fight.
Well, it is equally obvious what is going on in the Eucharist.
Why does the priest bring Christ’s body into our midst in the form of bread and then entrust him to each of us? Because Jesus Christ wants to multiply himself and he wants to be united totally with each and every one of us so that he can do his work.
The only reason it isn’t obvious is because it’s so unexpected.
If you or I had godlike powers this is the last thing we would do. If it were me, I would make myself a mighty superhero able to do heroic good for people, all by myself.
But the real God didn’t want that. He wants to do something even greater: He wants to do heroic good for people in and through ordinary people.
So instead of becoming a superhero, he took the form of a piece of bread.
Think of all the things a communion host can’t do — and what it can.
If you call a hurting friend and put the phone next to a consecrated host, your friend will hear nothing. If you put a host on a street where homeless people live, the host would sit there, powerless to help them.
But think of what God in the form of a host can do.
God in the form of a host can be taken into the bodies of countless people, people in any culture that has bread, which is every culture, and in any nation that can be reached by a priest, which is every nation.
He can unite himself body and soul to anyone who is able to receive him with faith — and then send them forth into the world.
Then, having received Christ, you can call and console your hurt friend, and you can do his work among the homeless.
This is what the end of Mass is supposed to communicate.
“Go forth, the Mass is ended,” says the priest. “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”
Then he lets loose on the world all of those Catholics who received him into their bodies and souls.
Jesus came to us and lived among us in Nazareth, on his own two legs. But after he died and rose, he decided to stay with us as he did in Emmaus, where the disciples recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
Now God, in communion, is saying: “The world has so many troubles, so many problems, and everyone wants me to save them by a miracle. So I did. The miracle is the greatest miracle of all: I turned bread into myself so that I could unite everyone who receives the sacrament and do my work with and through billions of helpers.”