Making a Good Thanksgiving After Holy Communion
Friday April 15, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 9:1-20) Gospel (St. John 6:52-59)
In the Gospel reading today, we see in extraordinarily clear terms the reality of what Our Lord is teaching about the Eucharist: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Now in case anybody wanted to think that the Lord was speaking in some sort of vague spiritual terms about this, He goes on to say, My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. He goes on talking in the same vein. We see the reality that Our Lord is teaching us about the Eucharist, that this is Jesus Christ.
We have to have some means of being able to receive Him that is not going to be cannibalism because that, of course, is completely forbidden (even if we tried cannibalism, the flesh of Jesus would have been completely consumed centuries ago). So how is it that Christian people are to do this unless, by some miracle, He is going to give us a means by which the bread and wine are going to be changed into His very Body and Blood, into the fullness of His Person, so that we will be completely united with Him? Again, that is exactly what He tells us in the reading, that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have union with Christ – He will live within. That is what happens when we receive Holy Communion. Jesus Christ in the fullness of His Person comes to dwell within us.
We realize, then, that there are these different forms of the presence of God. Each and every person throughout the world already has the presence of immensity, that is, God is simply keeping them in existence. The same is true of every material thing. God has to keep everything in existence by His presence of immensity, so He is present everywhere in that way. For anyone who is in the state of grace, from the moment that we are baptized as long as we are in the state of grace the indwelling presence of God is there. The Three Persons of the Holy Trinity literally and actually dwell within our souls. So there is that union that is already there. But there is an even greater and more perfect union, and that is what happens in Holy Communion. We receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and He is now substantially present; in the fullness of His Person, He is there. That probably lasts for about twenty minutes after we receive Holy Communion. The grace, of course, lasts much longer; but the actual, sacramental, substantial presence of Jesus Christ within us probably lasts about twenty minutes.
Now that should tell us what we need to be doing after we receive Holy Communion. We should be with Our Lord, we should be in our hearts as deeply as we can, we should make a good thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion, and we should take the opportunity to love Him. Ask our Blessed Lady to come and be with you and to love Jesus in your heart, because that is where He is at that moment in Holy Communion. If you think about it, each time you receive Communion you have these few moments of intimacy with Jesus. And so if you have the opportunity to stay for a while after Mass and pray, please do so. If you have to go, that is understandable. But if you can stay and pray, how much better that you have Our Lord right there within you and you can commune with Him in the depths of your being. He is literally and substantially present within you at that moment, and, again, that only lasts for a little while. Those are the most intimate moments we can have in this life with Our Lord, and we want to spend them in the depths of our being. We want to enter in and be fully united with Him, as He has promised us that we would be able to do.
He is there for us, and we see His love for us so clearly. Now the question is: are we there for Him and can He see our love for Him as clearly as we can see His love for us? The only way He is going to have that love demonstrated is if we are doing it, if we are entering into the depths of our heart and we are spending that time with Him while He is right there within us. Spend those few moments of intimacy with Jesus. He is Almighty God, and He lives and dwells right there in your soul for just those few moments, substantially and sacramentally, every single day when you receive Him. These are the most privileged moments of our time on earth. We do not want to squander them; we want to make the best of them by entering into the depths of our hearts and uniting ourselves with Jesus, Who has already entered the depths of our hearts to unite Himself with us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.