Exploring mystery of the Eucharist brings revelations

Serve Jesus by feeding the poor.

Serve Jesus by feeding the poor.

October 12, 2015

As an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, it has fascinated me to what a Christian mystery when I distribute the Body of Christ at Sunday Mass in my home parish of Holy Trinity Parish.

The mystery goes beyond handling and physically distributing Communion, placing the transformed white wafer into the hands of outstretched souls; the mystery is how I see the Eucharist and how it has changed me.

As a cradle Catholic, I learned that in receiving Communion I would receive the real Body and Body of Christ. It was an act of faith, and my faith journey began.

A significant moment of change occurred when as a seminarian I assisted Father Duncan McDonnell on weekends at St. Anthony's Church.

The continued repetition of raising the host and proclaiming "The Body of Christ" during the long lines of communicants became a mantra from which a profoundly new insight was being born.

I came to see that the Body of Christ is not just what I hold between my fingers, the Body of Christ is, are, also the body of sacred and holy believers who have lined up in front of me.

That was a profound epiphany for me, but I was certainly not the first to have made the connection. St. Augustine, in his Easter Sermon, 227, "If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive."

And in his Tractate on the Gospel of John, "Let us rejoice, then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Marvel and rejoice. We have become Christ."

Years later, as a lay missionary with the Redemptorist Mission Team, the so what of Communion was further raised in a bizarre encounter at a senior's home.


While administering the Bread of Life to an elderly woman with her head down and eyes closed I said "The Body of Christ."

This seemed to startle her, make her raise her head and give me cause to ask her directly, "Do you want the Body of Christ?"

She answered back, "Whose body? " I responded, "Jesus's body", she countered, "I'm too old." I was flummoxed, and moved on to the next recipient trying to gather my focus.

Over the years I have pondered on these experiences.

So what is it to believe that the bread becomes His flesh? So what does it matter beyond my personal salvation that I consume and become the Body of Christ?

I found answers coalesce around two experiences this past summer. First, I was asked to help develop some lesson plans for Alberta teachers at a writing workshop sponsored by Catholic School Trustees and Development and Peace on the themes Peace Building, Humanitarian Relief and Ecological Justice.

It was another "aha" moment, but of a global nature.

I realized that part of the response to my "so-what" question is to respond with solidarity and justice to the needs of my brothers and sisters of the global south.

Not all of the Body of Christ around the globe is secure, fed and healthy.

The second experience came during a volunteer visit to the Marian Center with my family.


After preparing the meal with other volunteers and staff for the inner city hungry, I was assigned to serve nutritious soup in the dining room from a huge, hot cauldron.

When the doors opened, our guests filed in like a communion line at Church, ready to receive nourishment with open hands and hungry hearts.

I felt privileged to be there and it felt wonderfully familiar to when I distribute Eucharist in Church.

At the centre we are reminded that we serve Jesus in the food line as our mysterious guest. I asked myself, which one is Jesus, where is he?

Another "aha" moment, this time of a local perspective: Jesus is always here amongst the bruised and wounded people before me. I am only challenged to see and care.


So what have I learned? Very simply, whether I am at Mass, downtown Edmonton or reading about global injustices, I need only have the eyes of faith to see, and the hands of love to serve Jesus, in my brothers and sisters.

As Father Salihu of my parish recently preached, the Eucharist warrants us to be a "benefit to others and the world."

It is a burden of love through the reception of the Eucharist that we help build God's kingdom of peace and justice as we wait with joy the coming of the Lord. Such love in action can be as simple and as profound as putting a piece of bread into another person's open hand.