Friday, February 22, 2013

In Anticipation of Receiving the Body of Christ

Communion has always been something that I have had great reverence for. I am very blessed that the church I attend has always, always reminded us to partake with great reverence and remembrance of the symbolism involved in partaking, they warned us every time we had it to only take part if we had examined ourselves and made sure that we were willing to cast aside anything that was keeping us from Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32) Every time we took it we would be read the Gospel, and told to stay seated if we weren't going to cast aside those things keeping us from God. It was never, ever something taken lightly at my church. I have been in churches where they were like "Um, communion is on the table back there, grab some on the way out, if you want." At the time I was like "A representation of the body and blood of JESUS and you're treating it like it's a cookie after service?!?!?!?!?"

No. One does not just GRAB communion on the way out! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I briefly mentioned my love of the Eucharist here.  Now, I want to expand on that. If you aren't familiar with the term, it's the consecrated bread and wine served during the Mass, AKA-the Body and Blood. So, like I said, I have always loved communion, and I am blessed to have come from a church that does as well, in fact, it's worth noting that I have seen more people not partake (that normally do) in my church than I have in all the months I have been attending the Catholic church....and we did it monthly, just throwing that out, Catholics.

Anywho, directly after my initial experience  for the following, oh three to four weeks every single time I turned around God would throw something else at me, until the moment I finally threw my hands in the air, and declared "Okay, God, you win! I'm going, I'll be Catholic if that's what you want so bad!" Then, peace like a river flowed through me, all the anxiety, all the worry, all the questions floated away in that moment. As soon as I surrendered to His will, when I finally gave in, all the beating me over the head with scriptures and truths just drifted away. Amazing how that works.

As I said, he was continuously revealing things to me, like every other day, HUGE things. Like, the second that first experience happened, the flood gates were opened, and the truths came pouring in. One of the initial truths He chose to reveal to me in the scriptures was the truth in the Eucharist.

I was minding my own business, reading John 6, which I've read a few dozen times, when all of a sudden Jesus's words struck me as they never had before: 

 "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven,which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves,“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 
 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” [John 6:48-70]

Now, maybe, like me you have read this before  and haven't paid much attention, I never did before this day, for whatever reason when I read it that day it hit me, I was like, "Wow, Jesus MEANT it" What really struck me was that many of them left. If He had only intended it as a loose representation of His body and blood He could have been like, "Hey, wait a minute, what I meant was after I'm back up in Heaven grab a shot of grape juice and a piece of cracker, as you rush out the door after church, and think of me for about a second while you do it." Then, they would have all been like, "Oh, okay, sweet." But, no, He was just like "So, the rest of you, chill with eating my flesh and drinking my blood, or you wanna go too?" and they had realized that He was who they said He was, and that He meant what He said, and no matter what He asked of them, they would do it, because that's what it takes to be a follower. 

Sometimes God puts some tough things on our hearts, like, um becoming Catholic, and being hurt by those you love, but as a true follower, you do it anyway. You do it because you know that what Jesus said is true, you do it because you know the Bible is the truth. This is what separates the true followers from the fair weather friends. You've heard me say before that the Bible is not a bag of trail mix in which you can pick out the M&Ms and leave the hard stuff for someone else. Those that left, only wanted the M&Ms, those faithful few that stayed knew that while the M&Ms were easier to chew, they'd also have to deal with some tougher stuff as well. And for Christ, they were willing. 

After I had this realization, I realized that I could never again partake of anything less than the body and blood of Christ. (and bothering my mom's priest of course, that poor guy deserves a medal for putting up with me! I tell ya!) What an amazing, wonderful, powerful gift that He has given us. The ability to have Him in us! What a powerful, amazing gift!  He said "this IS" IT IS His body, it IS His blood! Wow. How could I deny what was written right there in front of me? I couldn't. 

The more I looked at it, the more I realized the significance of Jesus feeding the 5,000 at the beginning of chapter 6. verse 26: "Jesus answered,  'I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.' "  The bread, which soon after He goes on to tell us is His flesh, all the people were fed, not only fed, but filled, and there was more than enough left over! What, then does that tell us about the body of Christ? Well, that tells us that He will feed us, and not only feed us, but give us all we need, spiritually, there is more than enough to go around! 

Verse 30-31: "So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?  Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ "

Remember,  the Old Testament(which means covenant), is fulfilled in the New. So, in the Old Testament they were given physical bread from Heaven, meeting all of their physical needs, but what kind of bread are we now given? Well, Jesus said, in verses 32-33 "Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  And, who came down and gave life to world? Oh, that's right, JESUS! So, now the bread we're being given is Christ! Spiritual bread, in which Christ is wholly present, Bread that will fulfill all of our deeper needs. 

Let's keep reading, shall we,  “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”-Verses 34-40. 

So, here we read that "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life" and then in verse 48 Jesus begins to tell us the difference between the bread which is His flesh, and the manna in the dessert. What's the difference? "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven,which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever" 

The difference is, those that eat of His body, and drink His blood, those that believe in Him will receive everlasting life. Wow! He is really present, He really wants us to have Him in us, and to have everlasting life, He did this for us, He gave us this gift. They asked to always be given this bread, and He told them that He is this bread, and He will not lose those that The Father has given Him. That's us! 

My mind was completely BLOWN as I tried to process all this! I couldn't believe I had missed it before! How could I have missed it before? Well, I did, and then it was revealed, and now I can't wait for the Eucharist! I'll probably cry, I'll also probably need someone to hold me up so I don't collapse from utter excitement and joy on being able to partake of that marvelous gift! 

I never thought I could love something so deeply, anticipate it so much, when I have never truly experienced it, but I am waiting in great anticipation to truly receive Christ in me through the Eucharist, and His presence is why! 

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