United With Our Lord in Holy Communion
Friday April 19, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Easter
Reading (Acts 9:1-20) Gospel (St. John 6:52-59)
In the Gospel reading again today, the Lord is making absolutely clear that the Eucharist is His flesh and blood. But He goes even beyond just simply that. In other words, to say that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood could be one thing if you think of the way that one would eat a piece of meat: The cow is dead so the flesh that is there is not living flesh. When you eat the flesh in a piece of meat, you do not take on the life of the animal whose flesh you are eating. But this is different because the Lord tells us that just as the living Father sent Him and He has life because of the Father, so anyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have life because of Him.
And so, it is not the "dead" Jesus that we are receiving; it is not a piece of meat like that of an animal that we are receiving; it is His living flesh, it is His lifeblood, and it is the living Person of Jesus Christ. The difference is that if we eat a piece of meat, it is just a piece of an animal and that piece of meat no longer has life. But when we receive Holy Communion, it is not just a piece of the Lordís flesh - it is the entire Person of Jesus Christ that we receive in Holy Communion. It is the fullness of who He is, and that includes the fullness of His life. That is why He can say, "You will have life because of Me. And whoever does not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood has no life within him." He alone is God; therefore, the life that we receive when we receive Holy Communion is the very life of God.
It is indeed an increase in sanctifying grace (which is the life of God) when we receive Holy Communion, but we receive the actual life of Jesus Christ because we receive the fullness of the Person of Jesus Christ. So when we talk about the Eucharist being the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, the point the Church is trying to make is that it is the fullness of the Person of Christ. And it does not matter if you receive just a host, if you receive just from the chalice, or if you receive both - you do not receive any more or any less because Christ, in His resurrected and glorified form, cannot be separated. If you receive just a host, it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. If you receive just from the chalice, it is exactly the same. If you receive under both species, you have not received anything more, nor have you missed out on anything if you receive only one species. It is the fullness of the Person of Jesus Christ.
And when you receive Holy Communion, you literally hold Our Lord inside of you. The Person of Jesus Christ is right there within. When we think of a person with whom we are in love, what we would want more than anything is to find a way of taking that person and getting them inside the heart. With Jesus, that is really what happens. He loves you so much that He enters into your person. His entire Person enters in so that you can have Him right within. And what He is asking is that you would love Him so much that you would want Him there like that. The wonderful exchange is that as He enters into you, you can enter into Him; as He is within you, you can be within Him, within yourself. That is what He is wanting. He loves you so much that He enters in, and He wants you to love Him so much that you will give yourself entirely to Him as He gives Himself entirely to you. There will be, then, a true union of persons, and you will share in the very life of Jesus Christ who dwells within.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.