The prophet Jeremiah promises God
"will make a new covenant" with his People.
In the Old Testament,
God showed himself to humanity.
But that wasn’t enough.
God’s people said, "wow!"—
then went back to their old life.
The New Covenant is something a lot more:
Not just, God came near man, but God became man!
This points to what it means to be a Christian;
to become a "little Christ":
Someone in whom God has come to dwell!
Not, "God near" but God in us!
This is what begins with baptism;
this happens in all the sacraments.
This is why we fall to our knees
before the Eucharist:
is present in a superlative way.
Notice what happens with the Eucharist:
Jesus Christ, fully present,
yet in the manner of food.
Why? Because of the very next step:
He wants not only to be near us, but in us!
Here’s a truly marvelous thing:
every other food, when we receive it,
is transformed into us.
The Eucharist is the only Food that,
in receiving, transforms us!
That’s what communion means!
Com-munion: "union with."
We Catholics do something
a lot of folks don’t understand:
We’re strict about communion.
Folks will say,
"why can’t I come? I’m a Christian."
I understand, but what kind of Christian?
To be a "little Christ"
is to be His kind of Christian:
Not Luther’s kind, not Willow Creek’s kind,
not Martin Fox’s kind, or yours, but: His kind!
So, how do we know what kind that is?
Christ established a Church,
and he is with His Church,
to show us, and to transform us!
Not God near us, but God in us!
The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity,
with Christ, and with his Church:
It’s a package deal.
Receiving the Eucharist at Mass
presupposes—and commits us to—
a way of believing and a way of living,
in union with his whole Church.
This is why I can’t receive
communion in another church:
it would be a false act of faith.
And it’s why we don’t invite
members of other bodies
to receive at this altar.
Saying this isn’t easy,
but you and I have to explain this
to folks when they come to Mass.
The priest can’t say it every time.
"Oh, the differences aren’t so great."
First, that’s not true.
There are real differences.
The Eucharist is the obvious one:
we adore the Eucharist!
That’s not bread, not wine; that’s Christ!
And it’s not really my place to say,
to another Christian,
what’s special about your church is no big deal.
The differences matter;
and until we transcend them,
we aren’t fully one.
Now, some say,
I’m not formally a Catholic,
but I believe it all;
why can’t I receive the Eucharist?
The answer is, you can!
But: do it the right way.
Example: a man and a woman
live together, have a family,
but they never "formally"
commit themselves in marriage.
They say, "what’s the difference?"
The difference is shown
by what holds you back:
Something holds you back
from that final step of commitment.
And you can say its "nothing"—
but then why does it hold you back?
Whatever it is, that’s the difference:
Holding-back is not union-with.
And, by the way, in those six words,
you have the Church’s teaching
on sex before marriage,
and on contraception, in a nutshell:
holding-back is not union-with.
The Eucharist is union-with: total commitment!
That means with Christ, and with his Church.
It’s a package deal!
So this applies to Catholics, too:
If we have a serious sin in our life,
or for some reason, can’t commit ourselves
to everything the Church teaches,
that’s holding-back, not union-with.
The 2nd Vatican Council reminded us that
while Christ’s presence
is greatest in the Eucharist,
that’s not his only presence:
he’s in his Church, too.
And that is the greater leap of faith.
To see Christ in the Eucharist is easy,
compared to seeing Him,
and hearing him, in his Church.
There are teachings
we don’t understand or accept:
respecting life at the beginning and end;
marriage: who can enter it, can we leave it?
who can be ordained . . .
To hear Christ teaching us,
through bishops and priests,
with all our flaws and sins?
That is a far greater act of faith.
But that’s what he said he would do.
It’s a package-deal.
The same Holy Spirit
who acts through a priest,
to turn bread and wine into Jesus Christ,
acts through the Church,
to teach and sanctify us,
to turn us into "little Christs."
This is the new covenant Jeremiah promised.
It’s about total conversion.
The Eucharist is total conversion.
That’s how it becomes the Eucharist,
and that’s the essential reason
to receive the Eucharist:
total conversion. Nothing less will do.