God With Us In Bread and Wine

In Evangelical circles, it’s not unusual to be asked if you’ve invited Jesus to come into your heart. As a young person, I never quite knew how to answer the question. Sure I had prayed the prayer, but I didn’t have any way of really knowing that Jesus had taken up residence inside me. I wanted his presence with me always, but I couldn’t figure out how I could be certain Jesus was with me.

I think it’s common for an Evangelical to feel some sort of angst about his or her relationship with God. I remember feeling as if I’d been left to discover it on my own. The only guide was how I felt. I found myself second guessing nearly everything about my relationship with God–I could never seem to find any peace, any assurance that Jesus was with me.

In my young adult years I was introduced to the sacraments. A good deal of my spiritual formation in those years took place in Anglican and Roman Catholic settings. Discovering that I could experience Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist with objective assurance that he was there was like being shown a globe for the first time. I had perspective; I could see where I was in relation to the spiritual world around me. God was no longer somewhere out there waiting to be found. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was with me, in me, through the mystery of the bread and wine, Jesus’ body and blood.

I’ll never forget a Mass I attended in my early twenties, at St. Paul’s Church, near the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington. As the priest held up the bread during the fraction, he recited the familiar words of the Agnus Dei. But instead of saying simply, “The Lamb of God …” he added “This is Jesus. This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ was there.

In the sacrament of the Eucharist, in Holy Communion, God meets us where we are. The humble elements of bread and wine communicate the flesh and blood of the one who became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Jesus, who poured out himself for the life of the world, offers us the food and drink of unending life in him. The holy mystery of Eucharist is also the mystery of the Incarnation: that God would deign to abide with humanity.

In all my life, I never would have imagined knowing God was as simple as eating and drinking. How gracious is Jesus – how gracious is our God, who reveals himself in bread and wine?

Today, whenever I’m asked if I have invited Jesus to come into my heart, I answer with a heartfelt “Yes. Absolutely.” And I invite him anew each time I receive Holy Communion.