Alleluia! He is Risen! Several years ago, while I was a seminarian, I was involved in a conversation with a few teenagers who were debating on which day was better, Christmas or Easter. The teenagers were learning toward Christmas, especially considering Christmas is often associated with receiving gifts. Who doesn’t like receiving gifts? And because our culture has put so much emphasis on Christmas, there can be a feeling that it is maybe more significant than Easter.
At the time, I recall defending the position that Easter was a more important day, since it recalls the Resurrection, the victory of sin over death. Christ’s birth at Christmas has to be understood in light of the suffering, death, and Resurrection that He would undergo to save us from our sins. Therefore, Easter should have the pride of place, while not really diminishing the significance of Christmas, for both days point to the common theme of God’s bringing about our redemption through the Savior, who took on our human flesh in order to save us through His life, Passion, death, and Resurrection.
As we consider these two peaks of the liturgical year, I would like to reflect on the notion of gift. As I mentioned above, we tend to associate Christmas more with receiving gifts, but it is also on Easter where we receive gifts. I am not talking about chocolate eggs or marshmallow bunnies (delicious as those may be), Easter invites us to appreciate the great gift of the Eucharist. As I mentioned in my article last week for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday is the day on which we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, the beginning of the Church’s practice of celebrating this gift every single day. The following line from the Catechism offers a simple yet profound description of this gift:
In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from His own and to make them sharers in his Passover, He instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of His death and Resurrection, and commanded His apostles to celebrate it until His return; “thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament. (CCC 1337)
In short, the Eucharist is the gift of God’s love for us, a love that is given at the expense of His Son’s suffering and death on the Cross due to our sins. It is a gift that has overcome sin and death and is now given to us so that we can share in the new life He has won for us.
Throughout this Easter Season, I would like for us to reflect on this gift of the Eucharist and how we can grow in our appreciation of this gift in our lives as Catholics. He (for this gift of the Eucharist is a person, not a thing) is a gift, sad to say, that I think many Catholics have neglected, taking Him for granted. As we begin this journey through this season of glory, I would like to issue a challenge. It is simple, and may even sound obvious, but it is something I know many struggle with. Here it is: come to Mass. Come every single Sunday. As a bonus, come to daily Mass as your schedule permits. Even if you are not able to receive Holy Communion (more on that in a future article), come! See it not so much as an obligation (which it most definitely is, and to intentionally miss Mass is a grave sin which must be confessed before returning to Holy Communion), but rather see is as an opportunity to receive this gift which is the pledge of God’s love for you and His desire for you to share in the gift of His Risen life, already available to us in this life, and fully in Heaven.