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  • Writer's pictureAugustinian Vocations

One Bread, One Body.

Updated: Jan 24

By Fr. Sam Joutras, O.S.A.

Several years ago, I was at St. Jude in New Lenox, waiting in line for Confession. And if you’ve ever been there, there’s a small daily mass chapel, with its own small altar. And so the line for confession crosses that altar. I remember it was a long time and we were all waiting along this perimeter of the small chapel. Now I was behind a mom and her five-year-old daughter, and I noticed that she was looking intently at the altar. She was a little shorter than the altar, so she got on her tippy toes, looked at the white linen cloths on the altar, and, with the innocence of a child, she asked her mom, “Is that where Jesus goes, Mommy?”

Now I don’t know what her mom said, but what faith that little girl showed to me. “Mom, is that where Jesus goes?” Well, yes, it is. It is where Jesus goes. Our faith enlightens us to believe that this bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. The Lord of the Universe. Only by faith can we believe this, because our senses tell us that it’s just bread up there. It’s just wine. But faith reveals to us that God is hidden. He is really, truly present in the form of food. The bread from heaven. And he is present in such a way that we don’t say the bread of Christ, but the Body of Christ. Even though it tastes like bread, smells like bread, and looks like bread.

So yes, this is where Jesus goes, the Risen Lord of the Universe. But He is on the altar not to stay there, but to be received by us in Holy Communion. He wants to commune with us. He longs to be one with us through this sacrament: “the two shall become one.” And so as we make our way to the promised land, he makes his home in us. He goes to us. Not only on the altar of wood or stone, but in the altar of our hearts, our very bodies. He makes his home with us in an even more powerful way than he did 2000 years ago. It’s only after his death and resurrection that Jesus becomes even more intimately present to us in the gift of the Eucharist.

Now the risen, victorious Lord Jesus makes his home with us in the company of the angels, the saints and our loved ones who have gone before us to the Lord. In the Eucharist, the Lord makes his home with us in such a way that he shares his divine life with us. We become his body in a unique way by our receiving of his body. It sounds pretty crazy, I know, but let me tell you a little story…

There was a persecution of the Church in the third century in Rome, under the Roman emperor Valerian. And there was a 12-year-old acolyte, an altar server named Tarcisius. He was at Mass with a group of other Christians in the catacombs of Saint Callixtus, in Rome. So after the mass, the priest asked one of them to bring the Eucharist secretly, for fear of persecution, to imprisoned Christians in Rome who were waiting to be killed for being a Christian.

And so, Tarcisius, hearing this invitation of the Priest, exclaims, “Send me, send me.” And the priest was very impressed by his courage and entrusted the Eucharist to him. So Tarcisius sent off and on his way he met some friends who approached him. They asked him to join them. Now, his friends were pagans, which means that they follow the Roman religion. And when Tarcisius refused to join them, because he had to bring the Eucharist to the imprisoned Christians, they were a little suspicious. They insisted that he join them. And then they realized that he was clasping something to his chest. Something that he appeared to be protecting. So in vain, they tried to pry it from his hands.

They finally realized that this Tarcisius was a Christian. And when they realized that, the struggle became even fiercer. They kicked him, threw stones at him, but this young man did not surrender. As the little acolyte was dying on the ground, he was still clutching to his chest the small linen bag that was holding the blessed sacrament. Later, the dead body of Saint Tarcisius was brought to the priest, and when the priest is looking at his body, he interestingly sees that the blessed sacrament was not to be found. It wasn’t on his body. It wasn’t in his hands or in his clothing. Rather the consecrated host that the little martyr had defended with his life had become flesh of his flesh. Forming with his body, a single immaculate host offered to God.

The Blessed Sacrament had become formed to his body. His body had become this sacrament. Now this story of Saint Tarcisius illustrates for us a fundamental truth about the Eucharist, which is that we become Jesus’s Body in a very strong way. In fact, our Baptism has already incorporated us into his body. We already are a part of his body. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the church already achieved in Baptism. In Baptism we’ve been called to form one body, the body of Christ, and the Eucharist fulfills this call of initiation into communion, again and again. We respond, “Amen,” and we receive the body of Christ.

Saint Augustine, many years ago, preached, “Be then a member of the body of Christ, that your amen may be true.” Jesus truly makes his home with us and then we make our home with him. We live, as St. Augustine invited us to be a member of the body of Christ. We live with faith, hope and love. Basing our conduct on the gospel and on the dignity of the human person. Now this is a two way street, he makes his home in us, and we welcome him. Jesus is looking for a home, he is homesick, he desperately longs to be one with us. To the extent that he chose to be with us to the end of the world in the blessed sacrament. And to be received by us, to form us into his body, like Saint Tarcisius. In the words of that little girl at St. Jude, “Is this where Jesus goes?” He goes to the craziest, most unthinkable level to love us. He becomes our food and our drink.


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