Not long ago, I had a very illuminating conversation with a married woman who is a good friend of our community in St. Louis. She is happily married with a successful career and colleagues who respect her very much. She has lots of friends and three adult children who are devoted to her. Yet she said something to me that I found absolutely intriguing. In talking about her life, she said, “I used to think that priests and sisters are lonely because that’s part of their vocation and the vow of chastity they take. But as I have become older, I realize that I too am lonely and all of my married and single friends are lonely as well.” In reflecting on this insight of hers, I have come to see how right she is. To be a human being is somehow to be lonely, no matter how many friends we have, no matter how big our family is. There is a part of us that no other person however loving can completely satisfy. A part of us that belongs to God alone. And we will not be filled, we will not be complete, we will not be made whole until we are united to Him.
This longing for God, this desire to be united to him draws us to the Eucharist. Here we experience communion with Christ, literally from the Latin our union together with him. As Jesus tells us tonight, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. In our eating and drinking we experience communion with Christ, a taste now of the Feast we will know later in all of its fullness, a scent now of the fragrance that we will smell in all of its richness, a whisper now of the Word we will hear in all of its truth, a glimpse now of the vision we will see in all of its clarity, a caress now of the grasp that will cling to us in all of its strength. The Eucharist we celebrate points us to the communion with Christ, and to the communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we will one day know in all of its totality. Now Christ is truly present to us as sacrament, then he will be present to us directly. There will be no need for Eucharist then, because you and I will see God face to face, and be utterly united to Christ and to the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the perfect unity of creature to creator.
In this communion that we have now with Christ and with the Trinity in our sharing in his Body and Blood, we also experience a communion with one another. As St. Paul reminds us tonight, “Is not the bread we break a participation in the Body of Christ? As the bread is one, we though many are also one body in Christ.” Because of the Body and Blood of Christ we share we form bonds with one another that are both visible and invisible. The Eucharist we share unites us visibly as a community that professes the same creed, that celebrates the same seven sacraments, and that acknowledges the same ministry of leadership in the persons of priest, bishop, and pope. But the Eucharist also creates invisible bonds among us, the virtue of faith in which you and I believe the same things about God and the saving work that has been achieved through Christ and the Holy Spirit, the virtue of hope in which we await the same vision of God in eternity, and the virtue of charity in which we enjoy the same friendship, friendship with one another and friendship with God himself. In the Eucharist we share, then you and I truly become members of the same Body, where we are to live in mutual peace, mutual forgiveness, and the mutual sharing of gifts, both spiritual and material.
Because there is a place in our hearts that only God can fill, we thank him for the gift of the Eucharist, where we are able to enjoy even now true communion with Christ, with the Trinity, and with the members of Christ’s Body, so that you and I are never really alone.