Of all of the actions that the human person can carry out while living on earth, there is no greater action possible than that of receiving Holy Communion. In the Diary of Saint Faustina, the angels experience a holy envy towards the human person and for two reasons: 1) we can receive Holy Communion; 2) the ability to suffer and merit through our sufferings.
However, Sacramental Theology teaches us a very important concept—that of the dispositive grace. By this is meant quite simply that the graces we receive from the Sacraments are in direct proportion to our disposition—that is to say, the state of our soul and our desire or lack of desire to receive the Sacraments. In other words, in receiving the most Holy Eucharist, the purer our soul, the deeper our faith, the more intense our love, the greater our confidence, the more sincere our humility, the more ardent our desire, then the more abundant will be the graces we receive in every Holy Communion.
A MODEL FOR US: SAINT CHARBEL MAKHLOUF. A splendid model for us is the person of Saint Charbel Makhlouf. He was a Maronite monk who lived in a monastery in Lebanon. He asked permission of his Superior to be able to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 12:00 noon! The reason? Quite simply, he wanted to spend the whole morning in preparation for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Then, after he finished celebrating the Mass, he desired to spend the rest of the afternoon, as well as the evening, thanking Jesus for the great Gift of the Eucharist! In other words, the Mass, the Eucharist, and Holy Communion were the very center of his life. This should be a great motivation for us: to place the Eucharistic Jesus in the very center of our lives! How great is the Gift of the Mass; how great is the Gift of the Eucharist; how great is the Gift of Holy Communion!!! The following short essay is simply twenty-five short suggestions on how all of us can improve, upgrade, and perfect the greatest action in our life—receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Indeed, Jesus stated very clearly in the Bread of Life Discourse (Jn. 6) that our salvation depends on how we receive Him. “I am the Bread of Life; whoever eats my Body and drinks my Blood will have everlasting life and I will raise him up on the last day.” May your frequent, faith-filled, and fervent reception of Holy Communion bring you to great perfection in this life and to Heaven your eternal Home.
1. FAITH: Start with the prayer of the Centurion and beg with these words: Lord, I believe, but strengthen my faith… in your REAL PRESENCE!
2. APPRECIATION: A real danger for us is that we can take the Lord for granted. We should put into practice what we read in the Sacristies of some convents of Sisters, directed to the priests: “Celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, and your only Mass.” Likewise, we should assist and participate at Mass, and receive Holy Communion as if it were our first Holy Communion, our last Holy Communion, and our only Holy Communion. In other words, to really appreciate this enormous Gift of God—Jesus, the Bread of Life!
3. READ UP ON THIS GREAT REALITY: START WITH JOHN CHAPTER 6! We should study the reality of the most Holy Eucharist. Reading the striking passage of John 6 —the Bread of Life Discourse can be of great help for us to grow in our love, appreciation, and fervent reception of the most holy Eucharist.
4. CONFESSION BEFORE. By cleansing the interior window of our soul by a good sacramental Confession, the graces of Holy Communion are augmented. “Blessed are the pure of heart; they will see God.” (Mt 5:8)
5. READ THE READINGS OF THE MASS BEFORE. Even before you come to the Mass get into the habit of a prayerful reading of the Mass readings; then they will come more alive for you in the context of the Mass itself.
6. COME EARLY TO MASS. None of us would come late to the World Series or World Cup or our Graduation ceremony. The Mass and the Eucharist are a billion times more important!
7. DRESS MODESTLY. It must be said that Mass is not a fashion show; rather it is the Sacrifice of Calvary. We are Christians—followers of Christ. Saint Paul reminds us that we are Ambassadors of Christ—we represent the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. Therefore, in our exterior dress and comportment, we should be modestly dressed and act modestly. Never should we be a cause of scandal to anyone, but especially in Holy Mass!
8. PARTICIPATE. The document on the Liturgy from Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, stated that we should strive to participate more actively, consciously, and fully in the Mass. We should not be simply spectators, or mere bench-warmers!
9. COMMON PRIESTHOOD OF THE FAITHFUL: THE OFFERTORY. Parish Masses usually have specific intentions. However, this does not exclude you from offering your own intentions in the Mass. What might some of these be?
10. PURGATORY. Offer your Mass and Holy Communion for the souls in Purgatory. This is the most efficacious means to alleviate and deliver them from their sufferings. It is a great act of charity towards them.
11. CONVERSION OF SINNERS. If we want to work for the conversion of sinners, which is one of the most noble pursuits or enterprises that we can undertake, then Mass is the most efficacious prayer. We are offering to the Eternal Father, the Precious Blood of Jesus for the conversion of so many sinners whose salvation is truly at stake.
12. OUR OWN CONVERSION: HEART TRANSPLANT. Every one of us is in need of our own daily conversion. When we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, let us remember that it is Jesus Himself who can change us, who can transform us, who can give us a new heart, who can give us a new life! Such that we can say with Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
13. WORD OF GOD. Listen to the Word when it is being read at Mass. If it is helpful, follow the readings in the Mass booklet in the pew, or bring your own missal, but try to really pay attention, because it is God who is speaking to you through the lector and the priest.
14. HOMILY. Then listen attentively to the priest who speaks; it is Jesus who speak to us through the person of the priest, who truly represents Christ.
15. WANDERING EYES. Our eyes wander, as a result of Original Sin. This can happen even in the context of Holy Mass. We should strive to really concentrate and focus on what is happening in Mass, even down to the smallest detail. Mass offers us countless graces, but we must be docile, open, available, and attentive to receive them.
16. GET INVOLVED IN MASS. If at all possible, try to be available for one of the ministries that you are capable of carrying out in Mass; there are many. We will mention just a few: Lector, Psalmist, Cantor, Choir member, Sacristan, Acolyte, Eucharistic Minister, Usher, Collection service, Hospitality service, Altar Server (including thurible bearer, cross bearer, etc.). In fact, the more actively we serve, the more we get involved in helping out the priest who represents Christ, the more we can appreciate the beauty and splendor of Holy Mass.
17. HOLY COMMUNION TIME: MARY AND HOLY COMMUNION. Before receiving Holy Communion beg the Blessed Virgin Mary to give you her Immaculate Heart to receive Jesus. This is very pleasing to Jesus. To receive the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the best way!
18. REVERENCE IN APPROACHING THE KING OF KINGS IN HOLY COMMUNION. When our time comes to receive Holy Communion, we should approach with great reverence—meaning with hands folded and thinking about Who we are about to receive!
19. REVERENCE BEFORE RECEPTION. The Church obliges us to make some form of reverence before receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. This could manifest itself by means of a reverential bow or genuflection. Again, remember Who it is you are about to receive!!!
20. AMEN. When the priest presents you with the Body of Christ, you say AMEN! This should be said audibly; it is an act of faith, that you really believe that it is the Body of Christ.
21. THANKSGIVING. After you have swallowed the Sacred Host, then give thanks to the Lord. This can be done with a song. Saint Augustine states: “He who sings, prays twice.”
22. SILENT PRAYER OF THANKS. Then you should find some quiet time to talk to the Lord Jesus who is truly present in the depths of your heart— talk to Him as your Best Friend, Brother, Lover, Guide, Good Shepherd, Consoler, Helper, Healer, Teacher, Savior, Redeemer, Master, your Lord and your God! These few moments after Holy Communion should be the most important moments of your week. Thank Him, adore Him, worship Him, praise Him, beg Him for your needs, most of all love Him!
23. INVITE MARY. Invite the Blessed Virgin Mary to praise Jesus within your heart, within the very depths of your soul. Saint Louis de Montfort suggests that we pray the Magnificat in thanksgiving after Mass. “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….” (Lk 1: 46-55)
24. BRING JESUS TO OTHERS AND BRING OTHERS TO JESUS. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, become an Apostle of the Eucharist. As Mary brought Jesus to Saint Elizabeth and John the Baptist, you should bring Jesus to others after you have received Him in Holy Communion. How? By speaking to others of the Good News of the Gospel, and of greatest importance, by living it!!!
25. LIVE OUT THE OUR FATHER—THE LORD’S PRAYER! In the Lord’s Prayer one of the petitions is Give us this day our daily bread. There are various interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer and this petition. However, related to our topic, it can mean to receive this Living Bread on a daily basis. In concrete, why not aim at going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion as often as possible? Maybe you can attend daily Mass once or twice a week? Or, if circumstances permit, every day! This would mean setting aside a half hour every day (if possible) to go to Daily Mass and receive Jesus, the Bread of Life, in daily Holy Communion. The Psalmist can encourage us with these inspiring words: “As the deer yearns for the running streams, so my souls yearns for you, O Lord my God.” (Ps 42:1) May we yearn more and more each day to receive Jesus, the Bread of Life, in the very depths of our being, for the benefit of our soul and many other souls in time and for all eternity!