In a time where people are more likely to call themselves spiritual rather than religious, Jesus through the Catholic Church offers them real, genuine spirituality: union with God in the Eucharist.
In the Old Testament, when God makes a special appearance, it is called a “theophany” (from Greek, “God showing himself”). One of the most memorable theophanies in salvation history is that of the burning bush. Moses comes upon a bush aflame, yet it is not consumed. God, speaking through the bush which symbolizes the divine charity, instructs Moses to not approach any further and take off his sandals. Almost always, this command is interpreted as a sign of reverence and humility. These elements are fitting and very true, yet they contain a historical context beyond the general exhortation to reverence. If we limit ourselves to these considerations, we will miss something essential about this moment.
It is customary in desert cultures to remove one’s sandals before entering another’s home. This of course is a sign of common respect, but also it denoted a level of intimacy and vulnerability. By removing your sandals and entering the home, you were putting yourself under the protection of the host, showing a level of intimacy with him. Moses is thus shown as being invited by God to an intimate friendship. Moses makes himself vulnerable by taking off his sandals. God then opens Himself up to Moses by revealing His name: “I AM”. God tells him of His plan to free the descendants of Jacob. He makes Moses a part His plan and He equips him for this divine mission. Moses therefore became a friend of God: he entered in communion with Him who is the life-giving cause of everything that is.
This is true in an even more profound sense when it comes to the Eucharist. The Eucharist itself is a theophany. God is present in a special way that should give us even more pause than seeing a bush burning without being consumed, since God Himself is present substantially. The very ground surrounding God’s theophany is holy; with how much more reverence should the Eucharist be treated! The invitation to friendship and union with God is there in an even more perfect way. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:56). By consuming His Body and Blood, we enter the very life of the Trinity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. Athanasius: “God became man that man might become God.” It is this mystical union for which we are created. We receive the Infinite into ourselves, which changes us from the inside out. The divine life is communicated to us. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Eucharist “is a food capable of making man divine and inebriating him with divinity” (Commentary on the Gospel of John). Union with God makes it possible for us to act with and in God, and God through us. The Eucharist is the way by which we grow in our unity with Christ and thereby become more like Him. He reveals Himself to us so that our will may be aligned with His will.
The Eucharist not only establishes our union with God but it also brings us into union with all those who eat with us. According to St. Paul, “Through the one bread, we, though many, are one body: all of us who are partakers of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17). The Eucharistic sacrifice emphasizes and celebrates that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. As the sacrificial meal of the New Covenant, the Eucharist binds its recipients into one great mosaic of a family. Our relationship with one another should reflect our union with God. Christ Himself tells us, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Union with God in the Eucharist breaks down the barriers which prohibit us from loving our neighbor. The Eucharist unites people who would otherwise be estranged from one another in the common adoration of God, in removing their sandals, bringing them to an awe-some wonder at the mysterious fire of God’s love.
This does not happen by a mere passive, habitual reception of the Eucharist. The life of the Trinity is dynamic. When we share in this Life, it is a veritable call to action. It is for those inflamed by God’s love to spread that love to all corners of the world. The Council Fathers of Vatican II describe the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). When we approach the Eucharist with the eyes of faith, reverent, humble, and open to God, we are rewarded by God revealing Himself to us and us to ourselves (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). We discover who and Who’s we are. When we receive the Eucharist, we must always do so with an unencumbered “yes”. In this we emulate Our Lady, who throughout her entire life opens herself to the power of God working in and through her. The Eucharist is the answer to the myriad of identity crises plaguing our culture. It can both awaken and fulfill the spiritual longing and hunger that cannot be satiated with anything less than God himself (cf. St. Augustine). The spirituality so desperately sought after in the West (really, the world) is found in the tabernacles of every Catholic church. He invites us to come to Him. So, come, let us adore Him.