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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, “You are my servant Israel,
in whom I shall be glorified”;
while I was thinking, “I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing”;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

“It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

John 13:21-33, 36-38

While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, “I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, “Ask who it is he means”, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, “Who is it, Lord?” “It is the one,” replied Jesus, “to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.” He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. night had fallen.

When he had gone Jesus said:

“Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
My little children.
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
and, as I told the Jews,
where I am going,
you cannot come.

Simon Peter said, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.” Peter said to him, “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” “Lay down your life for me?” answered Jesus. “I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.”

In the past, whenever I had a painful ulcer in my mouth, I would go to church, receive Holy Communion, and rub the host all over the ulcer. Since Jesus is the greatest physician, he can cure my ulcer, I reasoned. That, unfortunately, displays my ignorance towards the healing power of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is not some magic pill that when swallowed has the power to cure all of our physical illnesses. It is not even some magic pill that magically causes all our emotional or spiritual illnesses to disappear. If anyone who has a broken heart receives the Eucharist, the heart will still be broken. If anyone has a great tendency to sin receives the Eucharist, that person still has a great tendency to sin.

We look at the person of Judas Iscariot in today’s gospel reading. He had just received the Body of Christ at the first Eucharistic meal that was ever celebrated. And immediately he went out and sinned… and here we are complaining about people who just received Christ in church and makes rude signs in the church car park…

Simon Peter was another one. After receiving the Body of Christ, he boldly exclaims that he would lay down his life for Jesus if need be. It’s not that Peter was telling lies or anything. He truly believed that he would do something like that. But several hours later, he would indeed deny Christ three times.

What is the source of this cowardice, this sin that we have? Why can’t the Eucharist that we keep receiving cure what is surely a spiritual ailment? Jesus has taught us before: “It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him.” It is what is in our hearts that makes us sinful people.

Like what someone on my blog commented yesterday, “Our actions reflect our beliefs.” Receiving the Eucharist does nothing for a person who already intends to sin.

Then what is the Eucharist for? Why should we still receive it? Why is it a source of God’s grace?

The Eucharist does more for a person who doesn’t intend to sin, but knows that he has a tendency to sin. It is a source of grace, of strength to resist temptations that a person is aware of. For example, if I have a tendency towards the sin of lust, when I receive the Eucharist, I am acknowledging that I have this tendency, and I know that on my own strength, I cannot resist the temptation.

In effect, receiving the Eucharist like this is saying to God, “I am a sinner and I know it. Help me not to sin.” In essence, we are acknowledging our fallen state and placing our faith, hope and trust in God to save us. When we are acting not out of our own strength, but in the strength that comes from the Lord, then we shall see that the Eucharist truly is “the source and summit” of our Christian faith.

Dear Father, we know that we are sinners and that we have a great tendency to sin thanks to our fallen nature. We ask for your grace to accept this fact and that we are powerless to be saints. Help us, through the healing power of your Holy Spirit, to lead sinless lives, so as to always be in communion with you. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The Eucharist.

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