In my nearly forty-nine years as a priest, I have celebrated Holy Mass thousands of times. And even though it has become a very familiar part of my routine, sometimes in saying Holy Mass new insights, or at least important reminders, come to me.
That has happened recently as I’ve become more aware of the fact that every time I hold the host and say, “This is my body” and hold the chalice and say “This is the chalice of my blood,” I am united in a very real way to every other priest of the diocese who has said or will say those same words the same day. I am comforted by that awareness.
The reality of Eucharistic unity goes beyond the priests of the diocese, however. I’ve come to recognize that when I celebrate Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion, I am spiritually united with all of the Catholics of my diocese who will attend Holy Mass that day. Moreover, I am united with Catholics all over the world who hear those words of consecration. Finally, I am even united with all members of the Church, including the great saints, who have been nourished by the Holy Eucharist from the very beginning.
But what is true for me in the Holy Eucharist is true for you too, dear brothers and sisters. Eucharistic unity is a unity of faith; it is also a unity of charity and human affection. Receiving Holy Communion unites you to Jesus, to be sure. But it also unites you to your fellow parishioners, members of your diocese, and Catholics all over the world who are receiving Holy Communion that day. The Eucharist calls you to be aware of and to share in the hopes and dreams, the joys and sorrows, the blessings and the challenges of Christians everywhere.
Eucharistic unity transcends time. The Holy Mass unites you to all of the saints who have gone before you and have done what you are doing. In receiving Holy Communion, you are “coheirs to eternal life with those who have pleased the Lord throughout the ages.” (2nd Eucharistic Prayer)
The concept of Eucharistic unity is certainly not new. St. Augustine put it this way: “When you hear the words ‘the Body of Christ’ and respond, ‘Amen,’ be then a member of the Body of Christ so that your ‘Amen’ may be true!”
Something to think about: The next time you receive Holy Communion, try to be attuned to all other members of the Church, in your parish and around the world, who are receiving Holy Communion that day.
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