Grace to you!
We continue our reflection on sacramental grace.
I met a friend who shared an incredible story of his conversion to Catholicism. He was a Pentecostal. He had worked in different capacities in his church as a music director, a media personnel and a bible instructor. However, he felt something was missing. He didn’t know what it was; yet, deep within his soul, some spiritual need wasn’t met.
The Catholic Church was never an option for him since, from his childhood, his instructors hammered it in that Catholics are idolatrous, non-bible believing and non-Christian churchgoers. Completely untrue claims. Worse was the sex scandal of the 1990s and 2000s that rocked the Church in the West.
One day, he followed a friend to a Catholic Eucharistic celebration. Not only did he listen to the readings of the bible, the homily (thank God for that priest) was, according to him, excellent. He was captivated by the sanctity of the Mass and the solemnity of the entire worship. He felt something profoundly angelic about it. Could this be what his soul was seeking?
He left the Eucharistic celebration but the Eucharistic celebration never left him. The grace he received by simply being there followed him all the way, so much so that his mind was filled with the fun memories. It took years before he made a decision, “I will become a Catholic to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.”
When finally he did, his excitement was, “I found what was missing. I found it in the Mass.” When he received First Holy Communion, he witnessed a kind of ecstatic joy and deep peace he had never found in his life. The grace he received is called sacramental grace of the Eucharist.
It is that grace through which full incorporation into the body of Christ on earth, which already started with baptism (and confirmation), is consummated. The Eucharist is actually the marriage of the Lamb with his people on earth.
When we receive the Body of Christ, we become full partakers, now in the divine life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are configured, even more into him whom we consume. Remember that famous line, “We become what we consume.”
This experience is a relational encounter between God and us, a covenant much more than any in human life because it is a union of God with us. Think about this mystery: we consume Jesus, flesh, body, soul and divinity—Jesus in entirety. All the graces of his promise “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will not have life within you,” are fulfilled in the process (John 6:53). Remember, out of Jesus’ fullness, we receive grace upon grace (John 1:16).
The grace of the Eucharist sustains, offering us the pledge of glory in Christ. It unites us with the heart of Jesus, sustains us in our pilgrimage journey on earth, inspires us to long more for eternal life and unites us with the saints in heaven, including Mother Mary (see Catechism of the Catholic Church #1419).
Just like in the two stories of barrenness described in today’s reading, first regarding the birth of Samson (Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a), and second regarding the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25) (though these cases were of a biological nature), we could apply the story in a metaphoric way to spiritual birth.
For a soul that is barren, fruitfulness is granted through the graces of the sacraments, the chief of which are Baptism and Eucharist. What other way would one describe spiritual fruitfulness than to say, “I abide in him (Jesus) and he abides in me” hence I bear lasting fruit (see John 15:3-7).
The union with Christ that takes place during the Eucharist and at the reception of communion and the reality of Jesus’ lifeblood flowing in ours during that union is incredibly indescribable and lavishly fertile.
On this Day 23 of Advent, may we pray for a rediscovery of the grace richly provided in the Eucharist for us and our loved ones.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.