This is one of those questions that seems so simple that it’s difficult to answer. I’ve taken a course on the sacraments that was separate from RCIA, but after thinking about some things today I still feel a bit confused. What has thrown me into loop is the varying practices in Church history on the frequency of receiving.
There was a point in time in the Middle Ages where many people only received the Body & Blood once in a lifetime, and then the rest of their lives they would just participate in the Mass, and then maybe they would receive viaticum (Eucharist for the journey) shortly prior to death as part of the sacrament of healing.
What is the differences between receiving once in a lifetime and receiving once a month, or once a week, or once a day? Is there some spiritual advantage of a contemporary Catholic receiving once a week compared to a past Catholic that may have received only on rare occasions? What caused a shift in thinking to have a far more frequent reception of the Eucharist?
Also, when we look into the gospel that speaks of the bread of life, Jesus has this to say:
John 6: 52-58:
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.
So the person who receives the Eucharist has life in them. If this is the case, then why - looking at the matter through the ordinary means - would a person who is baptized but has not received the Eucharist have eternal life? The baptism removes their sins, or reconciliation would remove their sins post-baptism, but Jesus tells us that it is by eating his flesh and drinking his blood that one receives eternal life, not by baptism. It is by baptism that one is cleansed of original sin and forgive of others sins, but this doesn’t speak on the matter of eternal life. However, this can’t be right, because Church teaching tells us that a baptized person, contrite of their sins, would have eternal life. What am I missing?