Eucharistic Heart: Fr. John Hardon
The eucharist: the foundation of the Christian Family
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
We do not normally associate the Holy Eucharist with marriage and
the family. But we should. Without the Eucharist, there would not be
a livable Sacrament of Matrimony or a stable Christian family.
What are we saying? We are saying that Christ intended these two
sacraments to be related as condition and consequence. The Eucharist
is the condition, and matrimony as the core of the family is the
Surely this calls for an explanation, and a clear explanation.
Needless to say, this is a most important subject. It is so
important that the survival of Christian marriage and the Catholic
family depend on it. Are we serious? Yes. The Holy Eucharist is
indispensable for living out the supernatural, and therefore humanly
impossible, demands that Christ places on those who enter marriage
in His name.
Our plan is to cover the following areas of this fundamental issue.
Christian marriage in the family is a life long commitment to
This selfless love is impossible without superhuman strength from
The principal source of this superhuman strength is the Holy
Christian spouses and their families are a living witness to
Christ's power to work moral miracles in the world today.
The single most important need for Christian families is a renewed
faith in the Holy Eucharist.
Christian Marriage and Selfless Love
Christ instituted the sacrament of marriage in order to restore
marriage to its monogamous position before the fall of our first
When some Pharisees came to test Jesus by asking Him: “Is it lawful
for a man to put away his wife for any reason?” Jesus answered and
said to them, “Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning
made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall
leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two
shall become one flesh’? Therefore now, they are no longer two, but
one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put
asunder.” (Matthew 19:3 6).
But Christ did not stop there. He not only told His followers that
marriage is a lifelong commitment that no human authority can
dissolve. He further commanded those who call themselves Christians
to love one another with such selfless charity as to be willing to
die for one another after the example of His own selfless love of
dying for us on the Cross.
This is Christian marriage as elevated by Him to the Sacrament of
Matrimony. It is a lifetime covenant between husband and wife, to
remain faithful to each other until death. It is also a lifelong
promise, made to God under oath, to love one another with selfless
charity, enduring patience, and whole hearted generosity. Even more,
it is a solemn vow to accept the children that God wants to send
them and educate their children for eternal life in Heaven with God.
Since the time of Christ, there have been many breaks in Christian
unity. There have been many departures from the Catholic Church.
There have arisen numerous churches, calling themselves Christian.
Why the departures? The main single reason has been the
unwillingness to accept Christ's teaching on the indissolubility and
fruitfulness of Christian marriage, founded on selfless charity.
Need for Superhuman Strength
It takes no great intelligence to see that a faithful and
fruitful marriage requires superhuman strength. Change the word
“superhuman” to “supernatural” and we begin to see what we are
Catholic Christianity is unique among the religions of the world,
whether ancient as among the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and
Romans before Christ, or among the living religions of the human
Catholic Christianity is unique in making demands on the morality of
its believers that are beyond human nature by itself to live up to.
The two hardest demands are the practice of Christian chastity and
Christian charity. Combine these two virtues, and we begin to see
why Christian marriage and the family require, indeed demand,
superhuman power from God to remain faithful to for a lifetime.
This is what Christianity is all about: living a superhuman life by
means of superhuman grace provided by Christ to those who believe
that He is God who became man to enable us to witness to His name.
That is why Christ elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.
He had to, otherwise what He commanded His married followers and
their families would be an idle dream.
There are certain things that human nature, by itself cannot, and
the word is “cannot” do. Like what? Like living for a lifetime in
loving family partnership, without being seduced by selfishness and
sexual perversion that surround us like the atmosphere we breathe.
The Eucharist Provides Superhuman Strength
Entering marriage for believing Catholics is one thing. Living
in Christian marriage and raising a Christian family are something
else. That is why Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
The moment we say, “Sacrament of the Eucharist,” we mean a triple
The Sacrifice Sacrament of the Mass
The Communion Sacrament of Holy Communion, and
The Presence Sacrament of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the
Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist to give those who believe
in Him the power they need to remain alive in His grace. For married
Catholics and their families this means the light and strength they
must constantly receive if they are to live out the sublime
directives of the Holy Spirit for Christian believers.
They have no choice. The world in which they live is
an adulterous world
a contraceptive world
a masturbating world
a homosexual world
a fornicating world
an abortive world, that murders unborn children in their mothers'
Not to be deceived by this world, whose prince, Christ tells us, is
the devil, Catholic husbands and wives and their families need the
light that only Christ can give. He is available with this grace
through the Holy Eucharist.
Not to be seduced by this world, master minded by Satan, Catholics
need the courage that only Christ can give. He tells us not to be
afraid. Why not? Because, as He says, “Have confidence, I have
overcome the world.”
What is He telling Christian spouses and their children? He is
assuring them that He is still on earth in the Blessed Sacrament;
that He is still offering Himself daily on our altars in the
Sacrifice of the Mass; that He is literally, physically giving
Himself to them in Holy Communion. Why? In order to enable them to
do what is humanly beyond their natural intelligence to comprehend
and beyond their natural will power to perform.
Catholic families have no choice. The psychological pressure from
the world, the flesh and the devil is too strong to cope with by
The Holy Eucharist must remain, if it already is, or become, if it
is not, the mainstay of their family lives. This is no option. It is
a law of spiritual survival for Catholic marriages and families in
every age, and with thunderous emphasis, in our day.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Pope St. Pius X identified the
first meaning of the petition of the Lord's prayer, “Give us this
day our daily bread.” The primary meaning of this petition refers to
the Eucharist. We are asking God in the Our Father to open the minds
and hearts of believers to their need for daily Mass, daily Holy
Communion, and some daily praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Why?
To provide us with the daily sustenance that our life of grace
I am speaking to professed Catholics. I am speaking about Catholic
marriage and the family. I am speaking to those whose union in
Christ must be preserved by Christ, nourished by Christ, grow in
loving chastity and charity as prescribed by Christ.
Nineteen plus centuries of Catholic Christianity proves that the
Holy Eucharist is absolutely necessary for married Christians to
remain faithful to each other, and selfless in their mutual love.
The Holy Eucharist is absolutely necessary for Catholic families to
remain united in a world of selfish instability.
Witness to Christ's Power to Work Miracles
If there is one thing that stands out in Christ's visible life
in Palestine it is His power to work miracles.
In one chapter after another of the Gospels, Christ performed signs
and wonders that testified to His claims to being one with the
Father and that, without Him, we can do nothing to reach our eternal
Christ changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee.
Christ restored sight to the blind, and speech to the mute.
Christ cured paralytics so they could use their limbs.
Christ calmed the storm at sea by a single word.
Christ even raised Lazarus from the grave. When He told the dead man
to “Come forth,” what had been a decaying corpse came out of the
tomb as a living human being.
But Christ's greatest miracles were not His power over the physical
laws of nature. They were His power to change unbelieving hearts to
become men and women of heroic virtue.
The pagans of the first three centuries A.D. were converted to
Christ when they saw Christians practicing chastity and charity. It
was especially the faithful and fruitful love of married Christians
and the stability of Christian families, that changed pagans into
believing Christians and, in the process, changed the history of the
Where did the early Christians receive the incredible strength they
needed to live in Holy Matrimony and propagate the faith through
their saintly families? Remember, to become a Christian in those
times meant to expect martyrdom. Where did Christians receive the
superhuman power to live such superhuman lives? Where? From the Holy
It is not commonly known but should become known that in the early
Church Christians heard Mass and received Holy Communion every day.
The Holy Eucharist was brought to them in prison as they were
awaiting martyrdom by fire or the sword, or by being devoured by
wild beasts. We turn to our own day. What Christ did during His
visible stay on earth in first century Asia Minor, He has continued
doing down the ages by the exercise of His almighty power available
in His invisible presence in the Holy Eucharist.
It is the same:
Really same Jesus Christ who worked miracles at the dawn of
Christianity, who is now present in the Blessed Sacrament, offering
Himself in the Mass, and received by us in the Holy Eucharist.
What do we conclude from this? Obviously, that Catholic families be
witnesses in our day to Christ's power in their lives, as were the
Christians who were mangled by lions in the Roman Colosseum, or,
like St. Thomas More, were beheaded by order of a lecherous king who
discarded his wife in sixteenth century England.
The Greatest Need Today
This brings us to our final reflection. I make bold to say that
the single most important need for Christian marriage and the family
is a renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist.
There is an outstanding statement in the Gospels about Christ
performing miracles. The evangelists tell us that Jesus could not
work miracles among some people because of their lack of faith.
Notice what we are saying. We are saying that the Almighty Master of
Heaven and earth, the Creator of the sun, moon and stars, when he
became Man was unable to exercise His omnipotence because of some
people's lack of faith. Of course, this means that He could not,
because He would not, work miracles where the people refused to
submit their minds in humble belief to His Divinity.
Now we turn to our own time and place. Would anyone doubt that in
our nation in the last decade of the twentieth century, we need an
avalanche of moral miracles to preserve marriage and the family from
disintegration by the demonic forces let loose in our country today?
Only God can work a miracle and we need to change the figure, an
ocean of miracles in America, as in Canada as in England, and France
and Germany and Scandinavia, to mention just a few materially
wealthy countries that are in desperate need of divine grace where
so many are walking in darkness and the shadow of eternal death.
Jesus Christ is the infinite God who became man. He became man not
only to die for us on Calvary. He became man to live with us in the
Holy Eucharist. Catholics have a grave responsibility. They are to
stir up their faith in this continued presence of Jesus, now on
earth, in our midst, in our day.
They are to obtain for themselves and for their contemporaries the
power to live their married lives according to the teaching of Jesus
Christ. He instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony and the Christian
family to be a constant witness in an unbelieving world to what only
God become man can achieve.
This divine power is accessible in the Holy Eucharist to those who
have the humility to believe.
Copyright © 2002 Inter Mirifica
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