“Wake them up!”

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Today’s celebration of the Eucharist reminds me of the story a woman tells about her 4 year old niece and nephew. She was babysitting the pair one day and for lunch she gave them their favorite food—burritos and apple juice. As she left the room, she heard her young niece start to celebrate communion, as she had watched the priest doing on the altar. The woman was surprised at how well the little girl knew the words that the priest said at Mass. But when the little girl lifted the cup of apple juice, she added her own personal touch. She said, “And Jesus took the cup and blessed it and he thanked God for it and said, “Fill it with Folgers and wake them up!” We could say the little girl took some liberties with what Jesus said, but I think she was dead on with what He was thinking.

Are we “awake” to the real presence of our Lord, as the priest lifts the Bread of Life and the communion cup containing the Blood of our Salvation? When we stand in line to receive the Eucharist are we thinking about the precious gift we are about to receive or do our thoughts wander to the day ahead, the company coming for Sunday dinner, the work week, the sports event that will take place this afternoon, etc. Do we receive the most precious gift of all without our thoughts being on the gift and the giver? Maybe the child is right, “wake them up.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus repeatedly tells us that he is the living bread; whoever eats this bread will live forever; the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

How do we become more “awake” to the real presence of Christ at Mass? By living in the moment, being mindful of what is happening in the present. In the book “The Pope and the CEO,” author Andreas Widmer, a former Swiss Guard for the Vatican, tells us that John Paul II somehow managed to find the balance between pursuing a vision that impacted billions and being completely in the moment every day and everywhere. He tells the story of Bernard, a fellow Swiss Guard who stood watch at the Pope’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, which is just outside Rome. Bernard was in the center of the courtyard on a sweltering summer day, dripping with sweat thanks to his uniform and the hot Italian sun. The Pope and a few colleagues emerged from one door and walked directly to another. They never stepped into the courtyard, just skirted around its edges as they walked from one door to the next. Bernard saluted them, but doubted at the time that they saw him. In the case of John Paul II, however, he was wrong. Just moments after the pope disappeared behind the door, a sister who worked with him came into the courtyard with a pitcher of ice water. John Paul II had noticed Bernard standing in the hot sun and knew he was thirsty and sent refreshment to him. No matter how significant his business was that day, he was aware of the moment and a young thirsty guard.

Jesus is also thirsting; thirsting for time with us; so after receiving him in the Eucharist, let us spend a few precious moments thinking about his presence within us as he makes his dwelling place in our hearts and souls. Thank him for his love and his gift of eternal life. And remember, just as food and water are vital to our bodies, so the Body and Blood of our Lord is vital to our hearts and souls.

Sylvia Bates