The Catholic Mass and the belief in the Eucharist as the physical body of Jesus Christ can be traced back to Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, on the night before He was crucified.
‘Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.’’’ Matthew 26:26
This teaching is so difficult that in Jesus’ day, people struggled to believe it. In John’s Gospel, we read that many of His followers responded to the teaching by saying, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ (John 6:60).
Since then, Catholic Christianity has affirmed this teaching of Jesus, that He is truly present to us in the Eucharist and at every Holy Mass. This is an incredibly intimate way for Jesus to appear to us today, in a form which we can receive into ourselves every time we receive Holy Communion. Jesus loves us enough to be present to us in this way and through it, He continues to make His Church holy.
The Mass is an act of worship in which we are called to receive Christ so that He may transform us. The graces bestowed on us in receiving Jesus in the Eucharist bring us to a new life in Him, allowing us to reflect the love He has for us on to the people in our lives. The word ‘Mass’ comes from the Latin phrase, ‘Ite, missa est’ meaning ‘Go now, you are sent.’
In this way, the Eucharist is also the food for the journey, for the work of our lives. St Teresa of Calcutta saw it in this way:
‘I begin each day with Holy Mass, receiving Jesus hidden under the appearance of a simple piece of bread. Then I go out into the streets and I find the same Jesus hidden in the dying destitute, the AIDS patients, the lepers, the abandoned children, the hungry, and the homeless. It's the same Jesus.’ St Teresa of Calcutta
In this way, Jesus transforms us to be His love for others in this world, serving and loving them as He would. The Holy Mass transforms us into the body of Christ present to the world.
‘Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.’
St. Teresa of Ávila (attributed)