Worship Part I: The transformative power of the Eucharist

By Pedro Mendez


I grew up in a church environment where we publicly witnessed Jesus’ transformative power; He did something in our lives that only God could do. I witnessed the conversion of many people, including my Mom. It was evident: God was with us! The majority of these conversions happened in groups led by the laity. My mom, by knowing Jesus personally, chose to leave her godless mindset and behaviors to live a life in the Spirit. She felt drawn, then, to a living encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist.

St. John Henry Newman affirmed that God’s distinguishing attribute is his almightyness. He wrote, “God’s power over nature is the token He gives us that he is in the midst of us” (Epiphany, 1848). God’s presence in our midst today reveals the same attribute: He continues to change the laws of nature through the lives of those who sacrifice their old self to be the people God intends, as I witnessed when growing up and still today.

I wonder if the most crucial aspect of the Eucharistic crisis is the lack of experience of the transformative power of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection in our lives during the celebration of the Eucharist.

We might not believe in the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because we might not have experienced his transformative power in our broken and dysfunctional selves. Talking about the Eucharist without that experience is like being marketers of something that sounds theologically and biblically good, but full of emptiness within us. The Eucharistic celebration becomes a senseless Christian thing without engaging in its dynamism.

Let us recall the basics of discipleship. Jesus’ disciples had an experience of Jesus himself, reaching its summit in Jesus’ Paschal Mystery: His passion, death and resurrection. They proclaimed passionately what they experienced. The writings about Jesus in the New Testament, and centuries after, only came later. First is the experience of Jesus; then, we try to explain it (theologically) if we can. Theology on the Eucharist is important, but the experience of Jesus comes first. Evangelization doesn’t happen primarily by theological arguments, but by telling others what Jesus in the Eucharist has done and is doing for us – personally and communally.

Jesus truly effects the transformation of our very self through the celebration of the Eucharist. The meaning of devotion and contemplation reach their purpose, not primarily by external postures, but by the sacrifice of our very self on the altar during the celebration of the Eucharist. We do this by giving ourselves to God with the bread and wine offered on the altar and by responding prayerfully to the dialogue with the priest. He says, “Pray brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.” We respond: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” That sacrifice is the sacrifice of self, united to Jesus.

I offer the following prayer to pray in silence at that moment:

“Lord, I give myself completely to you – with my joys, blessings and hopes; but also with hurts, grief, slavery to sin, fears, addictions, guilt, unbeliefs, especially in your Eucharistic presence, and physical, mental and spiritual illnesses – so that I may be transformed by you.”

After receiving the dynamic living flesh of Jesus’ body, I suggest the following prayer:

“Jesus, by your wounds we have been healed. Heal me today as you healed others in the Gospels. Lead me to the fulfillment of all my hopes. Show me the path to follow from now on. Amen.”

This is not an overnight work, but a process of divine love. It is time to be Jesus’ witnesses in the Eucharist through the sacrifice of our very self on the altar to believe in his Eucharistic presence! Don’t be afraid; have courage!  “If the woman with hemorrhages was healed by only touching the fringe of Jesus’ clothes; what most wonderful things can Jesus do when we eat his body?” (Father Dario Bentacur).