April is the month to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament and it is very fitting that most of the time, Holy Thursday and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper falls during this month. On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper and Jesus’s giving of Himself to us in the Eucharist, His own Body and Blood. This was one act of love that was followed up by another, namely, His Crucifixion and Death the next day on Good Friday. The Last Supper became the precursor to the Sacrifice that would take place the following day and Jesus instituted the Eucharist in order for Him to be with us always. By giving us the Eucharist, Jesus gives us the means to remain close to Him by refreshing and feeding our souls with Him, the Bread of Angels. He did this as a reminder of the depth of His love for us, a love so great that He was willing to give His very Self to save us.
Jesus was willing to give His very Self to us in love also as a means to become united with us and we with Him as two people become united in marriage. St. John Chrysostom tells us that Jesus gave us the Eucharist in order to unite ourselves to Him as the head is united to the body and so that we might become “one entity with Himself.” His love for us was so great that He not only wanted to die for us and save us from our sins and everlasting death, but He also wanted to have a way to be united with us even as we are still separated from Him here on earth. He wanted a union with His people. And that is what happens whenever we receive the Eucharist. Just as in a marriage where “the two become one flesh,” Jesus becomes our food and therefore becomes one with us just as food does when we eat it. We become united to Him as a bride does to her bridegroom, and this is also a reminder of the intimate union of Christ and His Church. For this union to have its full effect, though, we must respond with our cooperation and allow this reception of the Eucharist to fully change us.
In order to allow God’s union of Himself with us, our hearts must be open and completely receptive at the time that we receive Holy Communion. We should of course be free of mortal sin and from attachment to any sin. Jesus does want us to come to Him as we are, but He doesn’t want to leave us there. We must allow the Eucharist to heal us and cause a transformation. We are receiving our God and King Who humbles Himself in order to come down and unite Himself with us. This is why we should receive kneeling if we are able and on the tongue. We should also be in prayerful meditation for at least 15 minutes following our reception of Holy Communion, contemplating the Gift we have received and the Sacrifice that has been made in order for us to have it. Staying after Mass for a brief thanksgiving is also strongly encouraged. We must put in the work and effort just as in a marriage if we are to reap the effects of receiving Holy Communion, which should carry over into our entire relationship with God. The natural response to such love from Him is to give Him all of our love in return.
Holy Thursday is an invitation for us to enter into the mystery of God’s love for us and ponder the extent of it. For Jesus to give Himself to us entirely, both in the Blessed Sacrament and on the Cross on Good Friday, is evidence of a love so deep that we could not even begin to imagine it. When He says, “Do this in memory of Me,” He wants us to enter into the Sacrifice each time we attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, letting Him enter into us and become one with us, as food does with the body. As we ponder this mystery and our Savior’s love for us, we can enter into a true thanksgiving and longing to reciprocate that love, which is what Jesus wants from us.