By Sister Katie Eiffe
Vicar for Religious and Director of Synodal Planning
Editor’s note: This is part one of a brief series of columns leading up to the opening of a three-year Eucharistic Revival.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Eucharist?” For me, the word is “GIFT.”
Many years ago, I was praying in the small Eucharistic Chapel at the Benedictine Monastery in Weston, Vt. Next to me on the windowsill was the translation of the Bible that we know as the “Jerusalem Bible.” I picked it up and turned to the story of the Last Supper in Luke’s Gospel.
As I read Luke 22:14-20, there was a verse which “jumped off the page at me” … and which has shaped my understanding of and devotion to the Eucharist ever since.
“When the hour came he took his place at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, because I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’. Then, taking a cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and share it among you, because from now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the kingdom of God comes’. Then he took some bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.’”
The word which “jumped off the page” at me is … “longed.” Jesus said, “I have longed to share this Passover with you …”
Very often, I have pondered my longing to receive Eucharist, to receive Jesus, to be his disciple … and never have I felt “worthy.” But that day … that word … “longed”… touched my heart so deeply that it evoked a whole new understanding of Eucharist which began to grow in me.
Jesus longs to come to me … and to you. Jesus longs for us to be “in communion” with him (and with one another.) Jesus longs to give his very self to us.
For me, this is what it means to believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is to know … and to believe that Jesus longs to be with us; Jesus longs to be within us. Jesus’ life was his total gift of self to the Father for us; it was and is also his total gift of self to us. And it is that total gift of Jesus’ self which we remember when we celebrate Eucharist.
It is that total gift of self which we are called to emulate. Jesus says, “As often as you do this, remember me.” Remember not only his actions at the Last Supper … but remember “all that he said and did.” Remember all that he taught. Remember how he lived. Remember that he taught us how to live … as his disciples.
I recently discovered a hymn by Sarah Hart titled “Drawn to You.” She sings, “Drawn to you, Lord we are drawn to you, to the beauty of your presence in this place. Here for you, God we are here for you, as the gifts we bring become a feast of grace. We are drawn to you.”
What is love if not the gift of self to another? What is grace if not God’s love poured out on us?
Eucharist is a gift of grace! Eucharist is the gift of God’s unconditional love for us! Eucharist is Jesus’ total gift of self to us! “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son” … to redeem us, yes … but also to show us how to live! We who are his followers are called to offer the total gift of ourselves throughout our life as Christians. Eucharist nourishes us, enabling us to do that. Eucharist feeds us; Eucharist strengthens us; Eucharist unites us to Jesus — and to one another … and Eucharist challenges us to offer the gift of our very selves in service to all.
In the celebration of Eucharist, we celebrate that love. We celebrate that gift.
We bring the gifts of bread and wine, and the gift of our selves … and “the gifts we bring become a feast of grace!”…a gift of God’s love.
“When you do this, remember me.”… re-member me.