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Held Hostage by the Eucharist

Jeannine Yousif

I am held hostage by the Eucharist.”

These are powerful words; I wish I could tell you that they are mine! They were spoken to me by a dear friend, a woman I have come to know, respect, and admire through my Walking with Purpose parish program. We connected when she first joined WWP to study Opening Your Heart, and I was her small group leader. One of the things I absolutely cherish about a WWP Bible study is the opportunity for women of all ages and all seasons of life to join together in fellowship, share our journey, and speak truth and love into each other’s hearts. She is in a later season of life than I am, and if it weren’t for this Bible study, our paths most assuredly would not have crossed. 

I was instantly drawn to her fiery nature, but also her intelligence and the peaceful manner with which she spoke. She claims that she was born without a filter. I claim that she shares abundantly her God-given gifts of authenticity and honesty. She speaks what she feels, but I have never witnessed her doing so at the expense of others. Her thoughts are well-spoken, however blunt she may seem. She is a widow. She struggled with fertility. She is in recovery. This woman has lived a life marked by struggle. Yes, she has had mountaintop moments. But also low valley moments. What continues to draw me to this woman of wisdom, integrity, and humility is that throughout all she has stood firm in her faith. Many times she was tempted to leave the Church for one reason or another, but she spoke these words to me as the reason she cannot possibly leave: “I am held hostage by the Eucharist.”  I will write them one more time, friend, because they are THAT striking. “I am held hostage by the Eucharist.” 

These words—how they have convicted me! These words are now imprinted on my heart. I have taken these words to prayer. I have made these seven words my battle cry. These words offer a glimpse into the intense power of the host. As Catholics we believe that Jesus—body and blood, soul and divinity, His entire presence—is the host. Lisa Brenninkmeyer, in Opening Your Heart, shares that “the principal fruit of the Eucharist isn’t something Jesus gives us, it’s someone. It’s the gift of Himself.” And when we consume that into our bodies, we are filled with His immeasurable grace.  

When we think of being held hostage we most likely think of being bound, held captive, or even chained. Here, I want to offer a radical thought for you to consider, sweet friend: by being held hostage by the Eucharist, by Jesus Christ Himself, we actually are free. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that “you, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free” (Galatians 5:13).

It’s the freedom offered through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the Cross, that offers us freedom from sin and the gift of eternal life. We are chained to our sin and the sin of this world no longer. We are offered a chance to “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). When we have tasted the freedom of the life Christ offers us, our eyes begin to open to the captivity the world has had us in. And by world, I mean the enemy. The enemy has held captive the beliefs of who we are and what we are worth. The enemy tells us that our worth comes from how we look, how much money we make, what our instagram feed looks like, our productivity, and the list goes on and on. And if you don’t think you are held captive by any of these things, ponder this: how many of us put a filter on our photos before we post them? How many times a day do we tell ourselves, “If only I could just lose that 10 pounds.” So much of our minds and hearts are held captive by the enemy and his lies!

In stark contrast, Jesus Christ in the Eucharist offers us truth. “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus Christ is available to us each and every day through the beautiful sacrament of the Eucharist. As I remember well from my parochial school upbringing, a sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give us grace. In this spirit, every time that you receive the Eucharist you can choose to embrace the supernatural grace being offered. That’s not just any old grace, friend, that’s the superhero-sized supernatural grace. Do you remember St. Paul before his conversion? He persecuted Christians. After his conversion, filled with the grace of Jesus Christ, he went on to become a prolific evangelist and missionary. He writes to us in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” And again, he tells us, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13). Notice, St. Paul says all things, even the hard things. The grace that allows us to ask for forgiveness, the grace that allows us to forgive another, the grace that we need in order to return to Confession, and the grace that we need to break chains of sin—this grace flows abundantly from Jesus. 

It is this grace that has filled my friend’s heart and keeps her eyes solely fixed on and held hostage by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The next time you go to Mass, lean in to the moment when the priest says, “Do this in memory of Me,” as he elevates the host.  Fix your eyes right there—at the full presence of Jesus Christ—and by His grace may you remain held captive there, held hostage by His great love for you, free from sin.

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Opening Your Heart: The Starting Point (Walking with Purpose, 2019), 143.

 

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