A reflection on the readings for June 19, 2022, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
“Why can’t I change after all these years? Why can’t I change my ways? I find it so strange after all these years I’m still more or less the same.” These words are the refrain to the song “Why Can’t I Change?” by the musician known as Passenger.
The words of this song came to me while preparing for this wonderful Solemnity of Corpus Christi. A few years ago, while I was on retreat, the priest who was leading the retreat said something that really struck me during one of his homilies. It’s something I’ve heard before, something I’ve probably even preached before, but this message stayed with me this time. He said that because the Eucharist is truly Jesus Christ, and because when we receive the Eucharist we are truly receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, then receiving Holy Communion even one time has the power to make us holy. One Communion!
Most of us have been receiving Holy Communion for years, some of us daily. So if the Eucharist truly has the power to change us, to make us holy, then we need to contemplate the question posed to us in the song by Passenger: Why can’t I change after all these years? Why can’t I change my ways? It’s the difference between ex opere operato and ex opere operantis.
Ex opere operato is a Latin expression which, literally translated means, by the work worked. What this basically means is that when a sacrament is validly celebrated it always confers grace. God always shows up in the sacraments. As long as the priest validly celebrates the liturgy or any other sacrament, God works in the sacrament. This is the objective part of the sacraments.
Ex opere operantis, on the other hand, is the subjective part of the sacraments. Literally translated, it means “from the work of the worker.” It refers to the dispositions you and I have when we receive the sacraments. So, at this Mass, Jesus Christ will become present to us when I pray the words of consecration (ex opere operato); however, when we come forward to receive him into our hearts it is ex opere operantis.
Thus, the answer to the question, “Why can’t I change after all these years?” It is not because the Eucharist fails to confer grace; it’s because we don’t have the proper disposition of heart.
What are your interior dispositions when you receive Communion? (This even applies to those who don’t receive Communion but receive a blessing, because Jesus still comes to you spiritually.) What’s happening in your heart? Do you prepare your heart to receive Jesus in the Eucharist? Do you come to him expecting him to do great things in your life when you receive him? When is the last time you made a really good confession to clear out the spiritual clutter that may be getting in the way of allowing Jesus to work in you?
One reason many of us are not growing in holiness is that we are not allowing Jesus to work in our hearts. Think about it: Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Second Person of the Trinity, the very reason for our being, comes to us in the Holy Eucharist each and every day, and many of us treat it like it’s just some humdrum routine. I can fall into this too.
Jesus Christ wants to change us. He loves us so much that he abides with us in this great Sacrament of Love. He gives himself completely to us. Do we give ourselves completely to him? When we receive him do we say, “Jesus, thank you for coming to me. Jesus, I need you. Jesus, I love you. Jesus, please change me; change my heart. I open myself now to all that you want to do in and through me.”
On this feast of Corpus Christi, allow Jesus to change our hearts when we receive him in Holy Communion. Tell him, from your heart, “Lord, I want for me what you want for me.”
Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
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Fr. Michael Najim was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Providence in 2001. He currently serves as the pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Westerly, RI.