The Sacrament of Charity (Love)
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity): On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life and Mission. It is an amazing apostolic exhortation to the entire Church focused upon the Eucharist and how that Sacrament gives life to the Christian life. Here are some words from Pope Benedict which quote the very Gospel we hear today:
In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a "thing," but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus, after feeding the crowds by multiplying the loaves and fishes, says to those who had followed him to the synagogue of Capernaum: "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (Jn 6:32-33) (no. 7).
Benedict continues in no. 8:
It is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God's inmost life. Jesus Christ, who "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God's own life. This is an absolutely free gift [emphasis added], the superabundant fulfillment of God's promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience.
As we continue in The Bread of Life Discourse and contemplate the amazing gift that Jesus has given to each of us in the Eucharist, it seems to be a good opportunity to point out a phrase that is heard, and sometimes fairly often: “I take/took communion.” We never “take” communion because the Eucharist is a gift—a total gift of Jesus’s very and entire self which as Scripture says: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (John 10:17). In all aspects of life, we always “receive” a gift. We never “take” one. This is one of the reasons that we can never “self-communicate,” that is, just go to the altar and take a host or pick up a chalice and drink the Precious Blood. It must always be received from a Minister of Holy Communion—someone who has already received the amazing gift of the Eucharist and is extending the gift to others. As we approach our Lord and Savior truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, may we always receive this life-giving and life-changing gift with awe and gratitude.