When you think of a friend what do you think of? Someone you see often, someone you talk to, laugh with, interact with, share jokes with, someone you can trust, hang out with…someone you spend time with? All of this goes into being someone’s friend and building a relationship with them right?
How then, do we call Jesus our friend? How do we interact with and spend time with Him?
In Question 75 of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae he discusses the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and says that one effect of it is true authentic friendship between us and Him. If we truly believe that Jesus is our friend then we should be overjoyed when we receive the Eucharist because it is our opportunity to physically interact with Him. Aquinas says, “Out of Charity Christ took on a true body of our nature for our salvation. Because it is the special feature of friendship to live together with friends, He promises us His bodily presence as a reward. In our pilgrimage He does not deprive us of His bodily presence, but unites us with Himself in this sacrament through the truth of His body and blood.”
Truly, it would be odd to consider someone our “friend” if we do not interact with them often, and as human beings the most prominent way we interact is by means of our bodies. If we have been called to be Christ’s friends, then it is most fitting that Christ would give to us a way in which He can be present to us bodily. Therefore, He gave us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. God does not call us to walk this journey towards heaven alone, relying on our own strength. Instead, he walks the journey with us, providing us strength and grace through His Eucharist.
St. Catherine of Siena certainly understood that Christ was present to her physically during her journey in this world. Her words speak true beauty and wisdom:
“O inestimable charity! Even as You, true God and true Man, gave Yourself entirely to us, so also You left Yourself entirely for us, to be our food, so that during our earthly pilgrimage we would not faint with weariness, but would be strengthened by You. O man, what has your God left you? He has left you Himself, wholly God and wholly Man, concealed under the whiteness of bread. It was not enough for You to send Your Word to us for our redemption; neither were You content to give Him us as our Food, but in the excess of Your love for Your creature, You gave to man the whole Divine essence . . .”