Become what you receive

| Father Michael Van Sloun | October 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Eucharist has a transformative effect. If we cooperate, the Eucharist has the power to change us, not in a small way, but in a major way, to re-create us into a new and better person.

When Jesus gave us the Eucharist at the Last Supper and asked us to “do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), he asked us to receive him, the bread of life (Jn 6:35,48), true bread from heaven (Jn 6:41), on a regular basis, because of his deep desire that each of us would have a complete makeover, a total transformation.

Nutritionists have a slogan, “You become what you eat,” which is partially true but cannot be taken literally. The meaning behind the slogan is, “Eat healthy foods, and you will be healthy; eat ‘junk food’ and you will be unhealthy.” It does not mean, “Eat poultry and you will turn into a chicken or a turkey”; or, “Drink milk and you will turn into a cow.” When we eat protein, our body digests the protein: It disassembles the proteins into amino acids, and then reassembles the amino acids into human proteins, human skin or muscle, that appear and function nothing like the original food source. The Eucharist does not follow the usual rules of nutrition.

Jesus said, “My flesh is true food” (Jn 6:55), but not the kind of food that is found in a grocery store. The smallness of the host indicates that it is not intended to satisfy physical hunger. Rather, Jesus explains, “Whoever eats my flesh … remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). Jesus takes up residence within a person who receives holy Communion. But Jesus is not simply a short-term guest. Jesus is assimilated and becomes part of the fabric of our being. Jesus forms us anew into his image and likeness.

Spiritual digestion happens in a unique and distinctive way. With physical food after digestion we are nothing like the original food source, but with spiritual food after digestion we become more and more like the original food source. When we receive holy Communion, our brains are transformed and we think like Jesus; our hearts are transformed and we love like Jesus; and our tongues are transformed and we speak like Jesus. As St. Paul explains, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20a). In the spiritual reconstruction of holy Communion, we keep our own personality and individuality, but spiritual digestion and assimilation follow the rules of spiritual DNA and replication. Jesus is the template or the pattern, and we are re-created as replicas or mirror images of him. We become what we receive.

The reception of the Eucharist is supposed to result in a dramatic spiritual transformation. If Jesus was a man of prayer, we will be people of prayer; if Jesus resisted temptation, we will resist temptation; if Jesus was a great teacher, we will study his teachings and share them with others; if Jesus cured the sick, we will care for those who are ill; if Jesus persevered when criticized, we will do the right thing even if others complain; if Jesus forgave sinners, we will forgive those who have hurt us or have done something wrong; and if Jesus laid down his life for us, we will lay down our lives for others.

When we receive the Eucharist, not only does Jesus visit us, he remodels us into a person more and more like himself.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. Read more of his writing at

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Category: Faith Fundamentals