Have you ever stopped to wonder at how amazing the gift of Holy Communion is? I mean, first, you have the fact that God himself, the creator of the universe and the trees and eyeballs and musical notes, became one of his most imperfect creations, took on every sin of every person ever, suffered an agonizing death, and then came back to life three days later, all for the love of you. Secondly, we’ve been given a gift by this selfsame God, the gift of His presence any time we need it, not simply to be looked at or thought about occasionally, but to be ingested, to be made one with our very selves, in a form both humble and glorious- a piece of bread. Just as Christ clothes Himself in our unworthy flesh, He now clothes himself in the humble form of the Eucharist- a mix of water, flour, and salt. Ane anytime the words of consecration are spoken over this bread, the bread becomes something infinitely more glorious- Christ himself. The man who healed the sick, drove out demons, cleansed the lepers, challenged the complacent, bolstered the weak, gave strength the the martyrs, died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, rose from the dead, returned to heaven, will return again, and is inside a piece of bread to be eaten by you and me. Take a second now, and just think about the glory of it all!
Now that you’ve had your second, it’s time to think of the complacency we treat the Eucharist with. It’s as normal to us as taking a shower or tying our shoes- we do it so often that we cease to think about it. And when we cease the really meditate on the immense power and love of God that the Host represents, we cease to respect the host. After Vatican II, many pastors took the ideas of reform in the wrong way, and began to encourage the disrespect. Kneeling when receiving the Eucharist was all but abolished, and now many people take the host by hand, tossing it into their mouths like popcorn. It’s almost as though we are saying to God in the Eucharist, “I don’t need to kneel before you. I’m every bit as important as you are, so why bother to show respect?” This mindset is not only wrong, but sinful. God has given you everything you have, but do we care? Of course not! As the good president said, “He didn’t build that!” (Feel the sarcasm, Barak!) We helped, or so we think. We obeyed, when it sounded Ok with our plans. We walked the straight and narrow, when it didn’t get in the way of our pleasure. Should we really have to show respect to a God who only really sat in the passenger seat and gave occasional advice to us, the drivers?
So how does one show respect to the great gift that is our Eucharist? I, to speak of myself, have since Easter knelt when I received the host and the wine. I also wear the mantilla, the veil that shows respect by covering my head, helping to block out visual distractions. I do not, or at least not yet, advocate that everyone do this, and I know that for some it is physically impossible. But I do advocate that we at least stop receiving in the hand, and receive on the tongue instead. Try working your way up, to more and more respect and love for the Eucharist. We must not let ourselves make the Eucharist mundane, the mass a boringly normal event. It is the apex of Catholic life, the crowning glory of God’s love story with humanity.