Johannes and Tristan, the Blessed Sacrament, which you will receive today for the first time, is a miracle. St. Thomas Aquinas said that it is the greatest of all the miracles of Christ our Lord. But for such a great miracle it is not very amazing to look at and to taste. All we see is a little white disk, all we taste is a little baked flour. Why is the greatest of all of Christ’s miracles so uninteresting on the outside? Why doesn’t Christ do something that everyone can see, something really impressive? Christ is all-powerful, all-mighty. What would you do if you were all-mighty? If I had been given infinite power at your age, I would probably have flown around through the air, with a long cape trailing behind me, and have killed all the “bad guys.” Why didn’t our Lord do something like that?
Two of his apostles wanted him to do something like that. They were two brothers James and John, and they were called the “sons of thunder”— maybe because they liked loud noises. Once Jesus was traveling in in an area called Samaria and James and John went into a village to ask the Samaritans whether Jesus could stay there. But the Samaritans said no, because Jesus was going to the temple in Jerusalem, and they did not believe in the temple. So James and John went and told Jesus that the Samaritans would not let Him stay there. And they asked Him should we call down fire from heaven to destroy them? What do you think? Did Jesus do it? Did He call down fire from heaven to destroy those unbelieving Samaritans? [Johannes and Tristan shake their heads]. You are right; He didn’t do it. Would you have done it? [More head shaking] Ah, you are wise. At your age I would have done it. I would have sent fire from heaven down on those people. Probably even now, even though I am four times older then you, I would still do it. But our Lord Jesus did not do it. He didn’t want to destroy the Samaritans; He wanted to change them from the inside. In today’s reading we heard how after Jesus had died and risen from the dead, one of his disciples (Philip the deacon) went to the Samaritans, and this time they believed. When the Apostles hear about this they send Peter with one of the “sons of thunder,” namely John to the Samaritans. John who before had wanted to call down fire to destroy the Samaritans now calls down another kind of fire, the Holy Spirit, to change them from the inside.
They are able to do this because of what our Lord did in His death. Our Lord did not have to die. In the Garden of Olives He tells His Apostles that He could call more than twelve armies of angels to defeat the people that want to kill Him. But He decides to suffer death. And by suffering He defeats death on the inside; He transforms it into a sacrifice of love that leads to new life. And so He is able not just to defeat His enemies, but to turn them into His friends. After Pentecost, Peter preaches to the crowd that put Jesus to death, and they are converted.
Before suffering His death our Lord gave His Apostles the Blessed Sacrament, which showed them the meaning of His death, and (more importantly) gave them a way of making the power of His death work on us now. In the Blessed Sacrament bread and wine are changed, not in their outer look and taste, but in their very being. The whole substance of bread is changed into the substance of Christ’s flesh and the whole substance of the wine is changed into Christ’s blood. When you receive this Sacrament, our Lord will come into you, and He will change you. He wants to change your life into His life. He wants to change all of your selfishness and brattiness, your disobedience and cowardice and greed and meanness, and give you His own courage and gentleness and obedience and love. He wants to give you the courage to take up your own crosses, all the hard things in your lives, and unite them to His sacrifice, out of love for Him. The great miracle of the change of bread and wine should lead to a change in you, Johannes and Tristan, a change by which you become holy. When you receive Christ our Lord into your mouths today, thank Him for coming to you, and ask Him to stay with you and change you.
[Preached on the Sixth Sunday of Easter. The main ideas were taken from a sermon of Pope Benedict XVI’s at the World Youth Day 2005, and a much earlier sermon of Ratzinger’s included in this collection.]