Let me start off by saying I am not a priest or church official and have not been educated intensely on this subject. However, I understand Communion because I have fallen in love with Jesus in the Eucharist. I will give you some background on how and why it started and continues.
Jesus began the sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It was a time extremely close to his passion. Jesus and his disciples wanted to celebrate Passover as all good Jews would do.
In the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), the Last Supper is recounted the essentially the same way. Jesus takes the unleavened bread, gives thanks and then says: “Take and eat; this is my body.” He then goes on to do the same with the cup, saying: “Drink from it for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed (for you)” (Matt 26:26-27).
The specific wording is a little different in each Gospel, but they all mean the same and incorporate the exact words, “This is my body.” Mark and Matthew both recount Jesus saying, “This is my blood.” Jesus literally turned the bread and wine into his body and blood. He said it, and last time I checked, Jesus does not lie. (Ha-ha!)
In Luke’s Gospel account, it is a little different. He relates the same thing, but adds Jesus saying, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). This is why we still do it today. It has been around since the beginning.
Even St. Paul writes about it in his first book to the Corinthians (11:23-26): “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this break and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
Not just a symbol
It is a long tradition. Many may question that since Luke and St. Paul talk about “doing this in memory of (Jesus),” the bread and wine we use at Mass does not actually become the body and blood of Christ. This is a serious concern and is an understandable question. However, Jesus stated these words because he wants us to continue the sacrifice of his body and blood. Through the Eucharist, we are reminded and are made present to (meaning we get to witness it) the historic sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. “When we eat his body, we unite ourselves with the love of Jesus, who gave up his body for us on the wood of the cross; when we drink his blood, we unite ourselves with him who poured out his blood out of love for us” (Youth Catechism, Nos. 126, 193, 217).
How awesome is that! Through the Eucharist, we see God’s love for us in a perfect way.
What about John’s Gospel? John’s account of the Last Supper does not include the breaking of bread. Rather, it includes the dialogue of the supper. That does not mean that he did not believe that Jesus instituted the Eucharist or that the Eucharist is real.
In the sixth chapter, John writes what is called the Bread of Life discourse. This follows the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. The crowd around Jesus stayed with him because he fed them, and Jesus knows this. He tells them not to look for signs. He urges, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27).
Jesus knew long before the Last Supper that he would give all of us the opportunity for the Bread of Life in his body. He is not talking about us eating just bread – he is talking about his actual body. God wants us to “believe in the one he sent” (John 6:40). It is the real deal – no doubt.
There are two more accounts of the sacrament taking place in the Bible: On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:30-32) and when he appeared to the seven disciples near the shore (John 21:12-13). Even after he died and rose from the dead, Jesus continued the sacrament which you and I can participate and receive in today.
I am not the pope, so do not take this as the word of God. But I hope this helps answer your questions.
Now the fun part. I love the Eucharist – like, seriously! When I am offered to speak about anything, I jump on the topic of Mass because of the Eucharist. Just about every time I go up to receive Jesus, I am filled with huge amounts of joy. (I am smiling right now just thinking about it.)
I know it sounds weird because I am a guy, but I feel like I am walking up the aisle to meet my groom at the foot of the altar. Because of his love for me, he allows me to receive him. How beautiful is that!
Our relationship with God is a marriage, and to me, going to Mass every day helps me renew my vows of that marriage. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist will change your life. It has for me, and I hope and pray it will for you. It will give you joy, peace, comfort, security, faith, serenity, and free, tender, unconditional, unfailing love from the Father.
This is what it means to be Catholic. This is what it means to fall in love with Jesus. I pray you open your heart to him and allow him to love you. Once you do that, falling in love is only natural.
“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian Life.’” – CCC, No. 1324
“Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.” – Father Pedro Arup, S.J.
Andrew Gutierrez is a freshman at LSU and a graduate of Archbishop Rummel High School. He is a parishioner at St. Clement of Rome in Metairie.