Filled with fear and dread of being murdered, the Prophet Elijah fled from the wicked Queen Jezebel who planned to murder him because Elijah killed the false Prophets of Baal. After a day’s journey on foot heading towards the holy mountain, the mountain of God, Elijah was consumed by the spirit of desolation and discouragement and fell into a deep slumber, not even close to arriving at his destination. (I Kings 19: 3-8)
GOD’S ANGEL. Concerned about the Prophet and his long journey, God sent an angel to comfort, encourage, and motivate Elijah and in this fashion. The angel woke Elijah from his deep slumber encouraging him to keep on his journey because it was a long one.
THE BREAD AND NOURISHMENT FOR THE JOURNEY. With the words of encouragement, the angel offered Elijah some bread to eat because the journey indeed was going to be a long and grueling one. Elijah ate the bread, but instead of rising and undertaking his long trek again, he returned to his slumber. Once again the angel woke Elijah insisting and encouraging him to eat bread and to walk until he arrived at the holy mountain where he would find safety, security, and a sure haven in the presence of God.
ELIJAH OBEYS, EATS, AND WALKS! Obedient to the angel, Elijah once again for a second time eats the bread offered to him, and from the strength he derived from that bread—which he ate not once but two times—he walks. The distance was long: he walked forty days and forty nights with the energy and strength that came from the encouragement of the angel of God but also from the bread that filled him with new life!
HOLY MOUNTAIN. Elijah’s destination was the holy mountain of God. God spoke to him not in the strong and powerful wind, nor the earthquake, nor even in the fire. Rather, God spoke to Elijah in the gentle and sweet breeze. This holy mountain is symbolic of our eternal destiny: heaven! Once arrived, we will be with God forever and be able to talk to Him as our best of friends, face to face for all eternity. Like Elijah, we should all strive to undertake the long and grueling journey to arrive at the holy mountain where God awaits us to join Him for all eternity.
ELIJAH AND OUR OWN LIVES. Like the Prophet Elijah, we all have our struggles, our battles, our dreary days, our temptations, our moments of desolation, and times in which we simply want to throw the towel in and give up! The key is that we must rise up and eat, not just from a plain or ordinary bread, but we must nourish ourselves on the Bread of Life. Not once or twice, but as often as possible. Indeed, if it is within our means to nourish ourselves on the Bread of Life even every day.
Let us enter into a topic that has a transcendental value and importance in our lives in the short time we have in this earthly pilgrimage toward our eternal destiny. We will take the Biblical passage and person of Elijah as our model and example. If we really desire to arrive at our eternal destiny which is heaven then we must nourish our minds, hearts, and souls on the Bread of Life as frequently as possible and as fervently as our hearts and souls can exert.
Therefore, this short literary work will focus upon how we can upgrade, improve, and magnify the effects of the reception of Holy Communion in our lives. In a word, the most important action that we can carry out on this side of eternity is to receive Jesus, the Bread of Life, in the Sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist. No action of the human person can supersede it in importance. This being the case, let us set up action points and guidelines to receive Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Holy Communion with an increasing faith, devotion, fervor, and love.
1. FAITH IN THE REAL-PRESENCE. Over the past fifty years statistics have pointed out that huge numbers of Catholics either do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, or at least have a very unclear and foggy notion of WHO is truly present in the Consecrated Host! After the double consecration in Mass, Jesus is truly and substantially present in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is not a mere symbolic presence, as in the case of Protestants, but it is Jesus’ REAL PRESENCE!!! Due to materialism and living in a neo-paganist and secular society we must constantly remind ourselves of this most august and sublime reality.
2. THEOLOGICAL CONCEPT: DISPOSITIVE GRACE! One of the most important theological concepts in living out Sacramental theology is that of the Dispositive Grace. In brief, this means that the grace that comes to us especially from the reception of the most Holy Eucharist is commensurate with or in direct proportion to the disposition of our soul. In other words, the fault is not in the Sacrament, but the fault is in the recipient of the Sacrament. Why? For the simple and unequivocal reason that the Holy Eucharist and your reception of Holy Communion is the reception of Jesus Himself—the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God and true man! It has been said that one Holy Communion well-received could transform you into a saint!
3. PREPARE YOURSELF BETTER. As a natural follow-up to the concept of Dispositive Grace is that of our preparation before receiving Holy Communion. Indeed, it should be a constant task and goal in our life to work on making better preparations to receive Holy Communion. Being honest with ourselves, we must all admit and confess with the utmost sincerity and humility that we can make progress, and a lot of progress, in our preparation for receiving the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion.
4. HUMAN EXAMPLE: THE BRIDE AND HER WEDDING. In the Diary of Saint Faustina on Divine Mercy, in the last book of the Diary—Book VI, she gives excellent guidelines on how to receive Jesus better in Holy Communion. (Diary of Divine Mercy in My Soul #’s 1804-1828) One of the comparisons or analogies that Saint Faustina brings forth is that of a Bride preparing to meet and marry her spouse. On a human level all of us understand this analogy. How many details, countless details, does the future bride implement so as to make this the happiest day in her life. Just a few: the dress—its size, texture, and color, the shoes, the manicure of her nails, the beauty parlor and the makeup, the crown and veil. Not only her physical appearance, but many other details: the guests, the banquet hall, the Church, the rug, the choir, the priest, the Readings and the homily, the altar servers. How much time, money, and energy is employed for the wedding day, which for many is hopefully the happiest day of their lives!!! Building upon this analogy, Jesus is the Wedding Bridegroom of our soul every time we receive Him in Holy Communion. Should we not be more demanding upon ourselves in the time, the effort, the manner, and the details in which we receive Him into the inner bridal-chamber of our soul???
5. GET A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS: THE SAINTS!!! The most famous musical group, the Beatles, composed a song with the title With a Little Help From My Friends. Our true, faithful, and most authentic friends are the saints. They are bright luminaries who point us to Jesus, the Light of the world, and to Heaven where the Face of Jesus will be our eternal lamp and light. They were the ones who really received Jesus with a fervent and loving disposition in Holy Communion. Consequently, upon dying, Jesus received them warmly, enthusiastically, and lovingly into Heaven. Their greatest desire on earth was to love God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength. Their whole life was centered around Holy Mass and the reception of the most Holy Eucharist. Therefore, a most efficacious means to make better and more fervent Holy Communions is to humbly beg the saints in heaven to pray and intercede for you that your Communions will become fiery explosions of love for the Lord Jesus!
6. EXAMPLE PAR-EXCELLENCE OF PREPARATION AND THANKSGIVING. One of the saints who can serve as a brilliant luminary and example in the reception of Holy Communion is SAINT CHARBEL MAKHLOUF. This Lebanese contemplative monk who was canonized by Saint Pope Paul VI spent most of his life as a Maronite Religious priest in a monastery in silent prayer and work. However, what is pertinent to our theme is his celebration of Holy Mass and his reception of the most Holy Eucharist. In a nutshell, his whole life was focused on the celebration of Holy Mass and the reception of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus the Lord. How, you might ask? Very simple! He was given permission to celebrate Mass at 12 noon every day. The whole of his morning was spent in preparation for Holy Mass and Holy Communion. Then after he finished celebrating his noon-day Mass, Saint Charbel would spend the rest of his day rendering constant thanks for Mass and Holy Communion. What an example for us! In a certain sense we should aim at this same objective and pursuit. Our life should be centered and focused on Jesus who is truly present in every Mass and every Holy Communion. May our lives be a constant preparation to receive Jesus with burning love, a most fervent reception, and then may the rest of our day be a living act of THANKSGIVING for this greatest of gifts. Incidentally, the word Eucharist actually means THANKSGIVING!!! With the Psalmist let us lift our hearts in prayer: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Ps 136:1)
7. COMMON PRIESTHOOD OF THE FAITHFUL: LIVE OUT THE OFFERTORY! If you have a chance, view the movie The Greatest Miracle or El Gran Milagro (in both English and Spanish). This movie, in a clear, appealing, and dynamic fashion explains the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by means of claymation. All done in 70 minutes. Among the themes worthy of highest praise is the presentation of how the Guardian Angel teaches the importance of living out the Mass by means of participating fully, actively, and consciously in the OFFERTORY of the Mass. By this is meant that the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but the faithful who participate in the Mass are called to make their own offering in the Mass—called the OFFERTORY! This is done by making a spiritual offering of oneself and placing it on the altar, placing it on the paten where the priest’s Host is deposited which will become the Precious Body of Jesus. Also, one is called to place one’s intentions in the chalice where the wine will be transformed into the Precious Blood of Jesus. If done seriously, your Communions will have infinite value and efficacy for you, the Church, and the whole world, even the souls in Purgatory!
8. WHAT MIGHT BE ELEMENTS FOR MY OFFERING TO LIVE OUT THE OFFERTORY? Actually you can offer anything that may occur to you. If offered with good will and purity of intention, God accepts all! The possibilities are infinite!!! However, there are three areas that might be employed to help you to live more fervently your Offertory and derive countless and untold blessings!
a) THE SOULS IN PURGATORY. The souls in Purgatory, these suffering souls, are already saved, but they must be purified by the fires of God’s loving justice. Remember the words of the last Book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation: “Nothing impure can enter the Kingdom of God.” (Rev 1:27) By far the most efficacious means to purify, to sanctify, and to liberate the souls detained in Purgatory is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for these poor souls and the worthy reception of Holy Communion received for them. Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, O.S.A. desired to be a priest primarily so that he could help to free these souls from the fires of Purgatory by offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them.
b) THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS. What Jesus and Mary desire most in this world is the conversion and the salvation of sinners. By offering your Masses and Holy Communions for the conversion and salvation of sinners, the Hearts of Jesus and Mary overflow with joy.
c) PERSONAL HEART-TRANSPLANT. We all must work day and night upon our own personal conversion. There is no more efficacious and powerful means by which we can convert our hearts from hearts of sinners into hearts of saints than by the worthy, frequent, fervent, and faithful reception of Holy Communion. Indeed, every worthy reception of Holy Communion is a SPIRITUAL HEART-TRANSPLANT. In all truth, the Heart of Jesus takes possession of our heart and there is a real transformation! We become what we eat! We consume the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus and we become like Him. In time we will be able to say with Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
d) YOUR FIRST, LAST, AND ONLY. In some convent sacristies there is a plaque on the wall that the priest is invited to read as he vests and prepares for Holy Mass that reads as such: “Priest, man of God, say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, and your only Mass.” What would happen if you made this decision starting today with respect to your participation in Mass and reception of Holy Communion—to receive your Holy Communion as if it were your first, last, and only??? Most likely your Holy Communions would be much more fervent. What do you think?
e) OUR LADY OF THE ECUHARIST AND HOLY COMMUNION. As a concluding note we should contemplate the Blessed Virgin Mary and beg for her most powerful intercession in our reception of Holy Communion. In a very real sense Mary received her first Communion when she said YES to the Archangel Gabriel with the words: “Behold, I am the Handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) Then the Gospel of Saint John states: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn 1:14) Pope Saint John Paul II made this parallel connection: “The Yes of Mary to the Angel and our Amen when we receive Holy Communion have a real similarity; both result in the reception of Jesus into the depths of the heart.” Therefore, let us humbly implore the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Eucharist, for the most special grace to receive the Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion with lively faith, with frequency, and with a burning fervor and love so that we will be able to set the whole world on fire with the love of God!