Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Eucharistic Revival Series: The Ultimate Gift of Self

I originally shared this story in an article in 2019, but I think it is worth being repeated.

A young couple, Patricia and Tom, with a four-year-old named Jim excitedly awaited the birth of another child. Patricia went into premature labor and a little girl name Cindy was born. Doctors found that Cindy had a rare anomaly, and she needed a blood transfusion. Cindy’s parents were not matches; little Jim was the only member of the family with a suitable blood type. Tom, in a very gently way, tried to explain the situation to his son. He took Jim to visit his baby sister and tried to explain to him how tiny and sick she was. Jim asked, “Can’t the doctors make her well?” Tom sat down next to Jim and said, “They can, but she needs a blood transfusion. That’s a big word that means she needs some else’s blood to get better. Mommy and Daddy’s blood does not have what she needs, But your blood does. I am asking you if the doctors could use your blood to save Cindy’s life.” Jim looked down at the floor and said, “What will the doctors do?” His dad, continued, “All you will feel is a prick in your arm. You will have no other pain, and I will be standing next to you the entire time.” Reluctantly, Jim shook his head in affirmation.

As Jim was prepared for the transfusion, he squeezed his dad’s hand with all his strength. He admitted that he was scared. Tom said, “Be brave, my son! I am here!” As the technician prepared Jim, she said, “You are going to feel a stick.” Jim’s body jumped as one tear ran down his cheek. “There,” the technician said, “I’m all done!” Jim watched as his blood trickled into the clear plastic bag. After a few minutes, his eyes filled with tears, he looked up at his dad and questioned, “When is it going to happen?”  “When am I going to die?” With that, tears poured out of Jim’s eyes. His dad replied, “Why are you asking that?” Jim responded through his tears and great sighs, “I know I can’t live without blood. I am giving my blood so Cindy can live. That means that I will die.” Tom picked his son up in his arms, kissed the sobbing boy and said, “Oh my son!  My dear, dear son! I promise that you will not die now. The doctors will only take a small amount of your blood. You will run and play with your sister, I promise!” Father and son both shared tears at that moment.

I share this story with you as I continue my series on “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” a document written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In it, we read that Christ’s blood, “shed for us, is the eternal sign of … love. As a memorial the Eucharist is not another sacrifice, but the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ by which we are reconciled to the Father. It is the way by which we are drawn into Jesus’ perfect offering of love, so that his sacrifice becomes the sacrifice of the Church. …

The Eucharist is a sacrificial meal, “the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood. Its fundamental pattern is found in the Jewish celebration of the Passover, which involves both a meal and a sacrifice. The Passover meal is celebrated in remembrance of the Exodus, when the Israelites were told to sacrifice a lamb to the Lord and to mark the doorposts of their houses with the blood, so that the angel of death would pass over their houses and leave the Israelites unharmed. This marked a people set apart and chosen by God as his special possession. Each family was then to eat the lamb with unleavened bread as a reminder of the haste with which the Israelites had to prepare for their departure from Egypt and with bitter herbs as a reminder of their deliverance from slavery. At the Last Supper, Jesus reveals himself to be the Paschal Lamb (‘Behold the Lamb of God’) whose sacrifice brings liberation from slavery to sin and whose blood marks out a new people belonging to God. All the sacrifices in the Old Testament prefigure and find their fulfillment in the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus.”1

Another way of looking at this is that all of humanity is like Cindy in the story above: waiting to be saved. We need not only the Blood of our Savior but his Body as well. During the Last Supper, Jesus left us a living reminder of His sacrifice and His gift, The Eucharist. Through it, we are not only united to the death and resurrection of Christ at a moment in time, but also for eternity. To clarify: He offered Himself up for us for the forgiveness of sin for all eternity. Each time we attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we partake in the saving act not as another sacrifice but as a re-presentation of it. We need to be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice in OUR time and at the same time we are brought to His hour! Pope Benedict XVI explains, “The remembrance of his perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into his ‘hour.’ ‘The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving.”1

A deeper understanding of this mystery should leave us in tears when we contemplate that such a self-gift was done in complete and utter love.

1https://www.usccb.org/resources/7-703%20The%20Mystery%20of%20Eucharist,%20for%20RE-UPLOAD,%20JANUARY%202022.pdf – paragraphs 14 and 15

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness

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