Why Did Jesus Institute the Eucharist?

Jul 1, 2022 | Articles, Sacraments, The Interior Life

By Vir Christi

Falling in love with someone is a heady feeling.  Your heart quickens when you hear their voice or you see them approaching.  Your mouth quirks up into a smile when your phone lights up with a text from them.  Your stomach soars when you’re standing right next to them.  Eventually, these feelings deepen into a joyful desire to spend as much time as possible in the presence of the other person.  You grow not just to enjoy the sensation of being loved or in love, but to fully desire to be with the other person and grow with them.  

All of us have imagined what it would be like to be loved in that way.  What if someone told you that that love already exists in your life, and you just need to be introduced to it?  That love comes in the form of the Eucharist.  In this month of July traditionally dedicated to the Precious Blood, there’s no better time to talk about it!

Why the Eucharist?

People spend a lot of time discussing whether or not the Eucharist is the True Presence.  How does the substance of those ordinary elements change, while their appearance stays the same?  Is the Eucharist really the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ? 

Something that frequently gets omitted in these conversations is not the what or the how, but the why.  Why would God bother giving us the Eucharist in the first place?  What’s the point of transforming bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ?

God Wants Deeper Intimacy with Each Generation

Throughout salvation history, God has sought to draw us closer to Himself.  God expanded His covenant with every patriarch in the Old Testament.  In Genesis, it began with God and one man, Adam.  Then, God made a covenant with one family: Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives.  This expansion of the covenant continued until Jesus came to bring the New Covenant to the whole world.

God consistently meets His people where they are at in each generation, but He doesn’t leave them there.  He draws them into a deeper relationship with Himself, and provides them with the means to do it.  Christians frequently think that the closest God wants to walk with us is in sharing our nature.  But that isn’t the whole extent of it; Jesus doesn’t just desire to share our humanity, He desires to share our innermost being.

Jesus never ceases to draw all people unto Himself, because He burns with such fierce love for us that being separated from us is agonizing.  It wasn’t enough for Him to walk among us for thirty-three years, sharing our nature; He wants each person to have an opportunity for intimacy with Him that goes well beyond simple companionship.  By literally consuming Him and taking Him into our bodies, we are united with Him more closely than we could ever be united with another human being.  Not even a mother and her child are as closely united as we are with Jesus when we receive the Eucharist.

God Is Willing to Hide Himself So We Can Approach Him

This is God, King of Heaven and Earth!  Surely Jesus could have picked something more significant than bread and wine to become His Body and Blood.  

As with everything Jesus did (and does), there is special importance in this choice.  Bread is one of the most common of foods, and wine at the time of Christ’s human life on Earth was an everyday drink.  Jesus’ choice of bread and wine sends the message that the salvation He offers through the Eucharist is meant for all, not just for a select few.

God offered His people the opportunity to be intimately close to Him in a particular way in the Old Testament.  In Exodus 20, God makes His Presence known among the Israelites and issues them instructions on how they are to live.  The Israelites are frightened by the power of God on display, and they stand at a distance while telling Moses to speak to God on their behalf.  They are too timid to approach Him, even though God offers them the same opportunity to initially encounter Him that He gave to Moses (Exodus 20:18-20).  

In the Eucharist, Jesus chose bread and wine to mask His Presence because He so badly desires to be with each one of us.  He is willing to hide Himself so that we may be emboldened to approach Him.  His grace makes us worthy, and He wants us to leave our fear at the door when we approach Him.  He does not want us terrified and unwilling to approach like the Israelites in Exodus, so He humbles Himself.  Love makes even the most nonsensical things seem perfectly sensible.

We Gain Graces from Receiving Him!

When you eat your favorite food, that food is digested, processed for energy and nutrients, and distributed according to the needs of the body.  The food ceases to exist, as it has become part of you.  The Eucharist is the only food that we consume here on this Earth that makes us more like something or someone else, in contrast to normal food that becomes more like us.  Every time we receive the Eucharist, we become a little more like Jesus and are drawn a little deeper into His Sacred Heart.

God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them across the desert to the Promised Land.  He knew the journey would be hard for them, filled with dangers and spiritual challenges.  To sustain them along the way, He rained down manna from Heaven for them to eat.  Before eating the manna, the Israelites grumbled, questioned God, and even considered giving up the journey and going back to their place of slavery.  But once they began eating the manna, they had the strength to continue on, and ultimately reached the Promised Land.  

Jesus, by His saving mission, has rescued us from spiritual slavery and is leading us towards the new Promised Land of Heaven.  Like the Israelites, we need food that sustains us on our journey and keeps our hearts and minds turned towards God. The Israelites would have died of starvation in the desert without physical nourishment from the manna; likewise, without the real spiritual food of the Eucharist, we would die of starvation in the spiritual desert.  Not only does the Eucharist make us more like Jesus, it gives us the strength we need to live the life of faith in this world.

Lastly but most importantly, we receive the Eucharist because Jesus wants us to receive Him.  The Eucharist is not a reluctant concession from a tyrant, but a joyful gift from an earnest Father!  Jesus will stop at nothing to see us brought home to the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Eucharist is living proof of that reality.  

As we meditate on the Eucharist this month, allow yourself to hear the invitation that Jesus extends to you to come and receive Him.  Open yourself up to the graces He wants to give you.  Fall more deeply in love with Him through the Eucharist.  And if you feel overwhelmed by the reality of it all, remember these encouraging words spoken to the blind man: “Take heart, rise; He is calling you” (Mark 10:49).

Vir Christi

Vir Christi

Vir’s heart has been on fire for the Church from day one, and he dreams of the day when Constantinople will be a city again. He has a competitive drive satiated by sports and board games, but is also just as happy to sit down and read a good book for hours on end.


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