Let me tell you a true story of a 6-year old Jewish boy named Mortakai who refused to go to school. Each day, despite his protests, his mother walked him to school but as soon as she left him, he ran back home only to have his mother bring him back to the school once again.
This scenario played itself out for several days with Mortakai continuing to refuse to stay in school and his parents refusing to acquiesce to his desires. No bribe or threat could convince Mortakai to change his mind.
Finally, in desperation, the boy’s parents took him to their rabbi, who said, “If the boy won’t listen to words, bring him to me.”
When the parents brought their son into the rabbi’s study he said not a word. He simply picked up the boy and held him to his heart for a long time. Then, without speaking a word, he set the boy down.
What words alone could not accomplish a silent embrace did.
Not only did Mortakai go to school willingly he went on to become a great scholar and rabbi.
This parable wonderfully expresses the essence of the Holy Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, and through all the sacraments for that matter, God physically embraces the believer and holds the believer close to the divine heart.
Words remain important, of course, but at times and in the most critical situations, words can fail us. When this occurs, we have recourse to another language – the language of ritual which can say what words cannot.
The gift of the Eucharist clearly gives evidence that Jesus incorporated such ritual into his interaction with his disciples. Jesus made powerful use of parables, metaphors and similes to communicate his message and he obviously used words with untold skill and charisma to comfort, to chastise, to challenge and to command, to teach and to guide his own. It is clear, though, that the gift of his body and blood is a ritual, a physical embrace, a kiss that holds us to his heart.
There comes a time, usually late in the afternoon, when children tire of playing with their regular amusements. It is then that a little one begins to torment his brother or sister. Mothers are all too familiar with this particular dynamic. The day has been long and supper time is drawing near, the child is tired and begins to whine. The mother, too, is tired, but must turn her attention to supper. She begins to scold. The child, tense and miserable, begins to whimper. The mother, in that moment, knows exactly what to do. She scoops up the child and without speaking holds the child to her heart.
This is an apt image for the Eucharist. Each of us comes to the Eucharist, at times tense, overwrought and needy. We have devolved into torturing one another and are unhappy with ourselves. Misery sometimes loves company.
There are times when we have no words, want to hear no words, will not heed any words. Nevertheless, in that wordless moment, God picks us up and, like a mother calming her child, touches us. In that moment, only physical embrace, physical touch will suffice.
This is why God, in Jesus, gave us the Eucharist and it is this physical embrace by the divine that we celebrate today, all the while remembering that when we are sacramentally and physically embraced at Eucharist we become one with the One who nourishes us and one with all other believers in the embrace of the One Spirit.
The sacred writers of the New Testament advanced forward the idea of life in the sacramental blood, offered by Jesus to his followers.
There is no make-believe here, no pageantry, no play acting. This is real. This is Real Presence. We hold not a wafer in our hands but the body and blood of the Lord. We hold not a cup of wine in our hands but the chalice which holds the blood of Jesus spilled that we might be rescued. Eucharist is Jesus’ choice to remain with us in breathtaking intimacy, in his Eucharistic body and blood.
Something takes place on that altar only God can do! Real Presence, therefore, is distinct from mere memorial presence.
The striking thing about the Holy Eucharist is the bond it establishes between love and suffering in the Lord’s own life and in our experience.
At the cross, God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our ransom
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