On the night before He suffered and died on the cross, Jesus shared a last meal with His disciples and instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Matthew 26:26-28)
Each time we go to Mass, we prayerfully participate with the priest who celebrates what Jesus did at the Last Supper.
Acting in the person of Christ, the priest consecrates the bread and wine and it is changed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into the body and blood of Christ. This change is called “transubstantiation.”
The transformed bread and wine are not merely symbols. They continue to look like bread and wine but they are not; the substances change. They truly are the Body and Blood of Christ.
Jesus is present to us in many ways, in his Word, in the poor, when two or more are gathered in prayer, and in the Sacraments.
But only in the Holy Eucharist is He uniquely present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is what we mean by the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
The consecrated bread and wine remain the Body and Blood of Christ, even after Mass, when some of the consecrated bread has been reserved for other uses, such as for distribution to the dying or the sick, or for adoration when it is exposed in the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.
The Blessed Sacrament is kept in the tabernacle, which is why it is customary to genuflect before the tabernacle when in its presence.
By dying on the cross, Jesus sacrificed for our sins. Through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we are joined to that sacrifice and receive its benefits.
At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body.” He took wine and said, “This is the cup of my blood.”
Think about that the next time you are at Mass. Jesus is now truly present on the altar. Think about it, too, as you return to your seat after receiving the Holy Eucharist. You now have Jesus Christ inside you!
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. – (John 6:56).