t the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he spoke at length with his disciples about very deep and important things, which St. John’s Gospel records in chapters 13-17. This “Last Supper Discourse” helps to prepare the apostles for the great gift Jesus will give them, which is the Eucharist.
In order to understand what Jesus wants to accomplish in us by means of the Eucharist, we have to listen to these words. And what Jesus speaks about more than ever, is the Holy Trinity. He talks to his 12 apostles about the relationship he shares with the Father.
Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father!” This is because, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”
What Jesus shares with the apostles at the Last Supper is a deep mystery, the mystery of God’s inner life. And we can only marvel at it, because there is no way we can really grasp the mutual indwelling of Father and Son; what it means for the Father to be “in” the Son at the same time that the Son is “in” the Father.
Man is created in God’s image, and so we experience in a small way through human love this “mutual indwelling” that exists between Father and Son.
Jesus explains that the disciples are going to be able to do even greater things than he did. Jesus performed his works because the Father was working in him and through him. But Jesus wants his followers to know that he will have with them, the same indwelling that he has with the Father. Just as he dwells in the Father and the Father dwells in him, Jesus will dwell in us and we in him.
In the Eucharist, Jesus gives the way to be received into his followers so that he might dwell in them, not just physically of course, but spiritually. But nevertheless, also physically! When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we receive his risen flesh into our flesh, and his divine blood (Life) into our veins. We receive Jesus into our hearts as the divine guest. He dwells in us. Just as the communion hymn sings: “Savior, abide with us, and spread Thy table in our heart… Lord, sup with us in love divine…” This hymn sings of the heavenly wedding banquet that takes place in our heart, whenever we receive Holy Communion.
A few verses later, in John 14:20, Jesus says, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” This is the great treasure of our faith. This the great secret of the Church, made possible through the Resurrection. This is why people become Catholic, so that they may arrive at the moment, after much preparation and searching, at the point where they can receive the Son of God in Holy Communion, and enter more deeply into this indwelling with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and through Jesus, with the Father.
For the children today, they come to the moment of their First Holy Communion. They have been learning and preparing for several years, and finally they are old enough to appreciate what a special and unique gift this is from God.
The Eucharist is not just bread. The Eucharist is not just something symbolic. At the beginning of Mass, yes, we start with ordinary bread. But during the Mass Jesus does the same thing for us as he did at the Last Supper: he changes that bread and wine into his Risen Body and Blood, the flesh and Blood which conquered death. So when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving the power and the reality of the Resurrection into our mortal flesh and body. And we are brought deeply into the banquet of love which the Father and Son experience by dwelling in each other.
Holy Communion is never something we should approach lightly. The children today remind us how carefully we need to prepare, how reverent we need to be, and by their white baptismal clothing they remind us how our lives need to be free of sin and consecrated to God, in order to participate in this Communion with God.
For us who were baptized as infants, and made our First Holy Communion when we were children, we should use this Easter season to deepen our own Mystagogia, listening to the words of Jesus as he speaks about this mystery, and recognizing what an incredible grace we possess in the Eucharist.
God dwells in us, and we dwell in God, through Jesus the Son of God who makes this possible in the Eucharist. Savior, abide with us, and spread Thy table in our heart.