By: Rick Hernandez
Every year without fail, I meet people that are having a difficult time with the holiday season. Some can verbalize what is difficult for them, but I find that most cannot even tell you why they have such a hard time. Through experience, I have come to understand that, in most cases, their struggle is with loneliness.
Sometimes people struggle because they are away from home and family, driven away by their life circumstances, difficulty of relationships, or hurt and resentment. Sometimes they struggle because they’ve lost someone close to them, be it the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship, and have yet to process the change and recover from the experience. Sometimes they struggle because they just never had someone that was close to them in the first place. The longing to be someone of importance to somebody is heavy in their hearts and minds, and their sense of self-worth is often tied to these feelings. I know this very well, for I have also been trapped in this web of complicated feelings, and after years of praying, God allowed me to understand two things about loneliness.
One -- In order to defeat loneliness, we need a solid relationship with God. We are social beings. We are created in the image of God and we know He is a God of relationship and community. This is evident in His very nature, for He is the Holy Trinity, three in one: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. As He is community and relationship, so are we called to be. In order to share from our cup, the cup must be filled, and we get to fill our cup from our relationship with God. “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Ps 23:5). From this overflowing cup, we can offer love to others without fear, for we are not alone. “I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Two -- We need to let go of our expectations and fears. Some of us live in these cages of our own making, cages that keep us from reaching out to others. We keep ourselves separate from own brothers and sisters, but long for acknowledgement and companionship. This just does not work. Destroy the cages! Let go of fears and expectations. “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). If we make the effort to love our brothers and sisters, with God’s help, we can win the fight against loneliness. Doing this may be difficult but…
“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor 10:13).
It is with hope for all of us that I am filled with excitement this holiday season! May this time of reflection bring us the gift of understanding the great love God has for us. May His overwhelming love fill our cups, that we may share His overflowing goodness with everyone, and that by doing so, we may mend old relationships and create new ones. May our hearts all be united in Him who loves us infinitely. We are not alone!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
By: Laura Worhacz
“You know my wishes for you are always the same: let us truly love our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us love him royally in his beloved Sacrament; let us serve him with joy and happiness, like the Angels and Saints in Heaven. Let us find everything good, everything fine which comes to us from his fatherly hand. Let us lovingly surrender to him our worries for the future, forgiveness for the past, and walk under the beautiful sun of his grace.” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (The Life and Letters of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Vol.4)
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
Looking for the perfect gift for Christmas?
Most of you know Raymond, my husband, had liver transplant surgery this past November 16th in NYC. We have left our home in Tampa for an indefinite amount of time so Raymond can be close to his medical team. The first year after this extensive surgery is a critical time, and Ray needs to be watched very closely. Clinging to the Eucharist has kept my family secure in God’s love during this alteration in our lives. Lovingly surrendering our own wants to the pathway of Heaven found in our hearts, will keep us close to the Angels and Saints, to the goodness of Our Father. God desires a return of our love. The perfect Christmas gift may be spending more time with our Lord, falling in Love with Jesus more each day.
Change is something often feared and handed over to anxieties. As we lovingly surrender by living in the grace of the moment through the Eucharist, the will of God births into our existence. Our freedom demands our choices; this includes our dispositions. Acts of our own will are important for us to recognize. Sacramental grace lives through us. We can cast out darkness by turning on the light. Have you woken up sad? Transform the sadness by calling upon the Lord, “Jesus cast out the sadness in my soul. Turn all to Your glory. Help me give thanks.”
The Liturgical seasons afford us opportunities to love Jesus more, especially in His beloved Sacrament of the Eucharist. Thanking Him for dying so that goodness may be found in our lives, focusing on our own faults, purifying our own souls, and shining a light on what God may want from us, is a Christmas gift to be cherished. By this dying to our own selves we become a gift to God and others, and only in the Eucharist can we find the grace to live in Heaven while on earth.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard, after a long retreat in Rome, close to his own death, opened his heart to the fullness of the reality of becoming a total Gift of Self. He lovingly surrendered all for the service of the adorable Sacrament of the Altar. In our faith we find the hope of our eternal dwelling place. Jesus lovingly surrendered; His birth brought light to the world. Jesus lovingly surrendered; His passion demonstrated the truth in existence of His love. Jesus lovingly surrendered; His death gifted us with an eternal place of GRACE. In the Blessed Sacrament let us find the perfect gift, the gift of self by lovingly surrendering for Christmas.
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
“There is nowhere to go, but down.” These were the “encouraging” words an older and wiser coworker of mine shared the day we found out our company was closing the site we were working at and we would soon be unemployed. I had landed the “perfect job” after college; the work was challenging, the pay was excellent, the coworkers were wonderful to work with, and my boss was amazingly supportive. Those words proved to be kind of prophetic, as every work experience after that one failed to measure to the ideal I had just lived. It seemed that everywhere I went there were compromises to be made. I could have a good salary OR a flexible schedule; I could have challenging work OR supportive teammates. The disappointments and job dissatisfaction I experienced eventually led me to become a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, where there was nowhere to go but up.
“I always wanted to become a saint…Instead of being discouraged, I told myself that God would not make me wish for something impossible…I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight. It is your arms, Jesus, which are the elevator to carry me to heaven. So there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must become less and less.” – St. Therese of Lisieux
We have a built-in desire for perfect happiness, perfect love, perfect beauty, perfect truth. We search and seek, yet anything we set our sights on, in this world, has a limit, an ending. Once we climb to the summit of one mountain, we must come down and look for another, taller mountain to climb, yet no matter how high it is, it will never be enough. Still, we know that there is something, or rather someone, who will fulfill our deep desire, because, just like St. Therese said, “God would not make me wish for something impossible.” It is only when we plug in our desire for perfect love to the perfect love of Jesus on the Cross that our desire is fulfilled; anything less will leave us wanting. Like St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
So, how do we “plug-in” to His love on the Cross? We don’t do it…we rest in Him and let it be done to us. Every cross in our lives is an invitation to an encounter with Jesus; we either pick it up and follow Him, or we don’t…we can try to escape it, deny it, go around it, or drag it, but we will remain restless and unfulfilled. I’d like to share a little acronym I came up with when I was praying about this “rest”.
It is in that act of surrender and thanksgiving that our poverty meets His Majesty. It is there, at the foot of the Cross, where His arms, like rays of blood and water, reach down and carry us up to Heaven.
After a few years of trying to be a career woman and a working mom, God called me to serve Him from home. It is there I found mouths to feed, minds to fill, and what seemed like a string of endless, mindless chores. But behind each one of those chores hid a reason of love. When I remember that I am doing these for another eternal soul, everything changes; the things that didn’t seem to matter, matter now most of all. It is when we “scoot down” to serve others that Jesus lifts us up; this is the contradiction of the Cross, …where we go down, so we can then go up.
By: Rick Hernandez
During our latest family trip to Puerto Rico, we attended Mass in a humble building, the Chapel of our Lady of Mercy in San Juan. There, a Spaniard Passionist priest gifted us with one of the most amazing homilies I have ever listened to, celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. Amongst many other things, Father recited the following words:
“For you Lord have a crown that is not made of gold,
and neither are your vestments made of silk.
Your throne is the Cross,
and your castle is but the heart of man.”
And for me, these few words implanted a strong image of the majesty of our King, readily apparent for those who want to see.
Jesus himself said, “…my Kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36). We know that His Kingdom is not based on earthly things, but… Is it just a Kingdom in Heaven? No. Father was emphatic that the Kingdom of Our Lord is here, right now, in our hearts, in our minds, in how we live and what we do.
We are called to replace the thorns of His Crown with our actions of love and compassion, to turn them into a crown of gold and jewels. We are called to tend to our brothers and sisters, the poor, to clothe them, to feed them, to care for them, thus turning His ripped linen garments into pure vestments of silk. We are called to sit at the foot of His throne, the Cross, and there receive the commission to go out into the world as apostles of Christ; commissioned to live our faith and to love others, to proclaim the Word of God by our actions, thus turning His wooden Cross into a golden throne.
We can see, that as the world tempts us to turn away from God, our hearts are to be the fortresses of the Kingdom, the strong outposts of the faith. When we stand firm in our belief, when we live the love we receive from our Lord, then we become His castles, His battlements, His outposts, the safe places for our brothers and sisters. The Mass becomes our place of gathering, our town-hall, where we are community. The Eucharist is then our sustainment, our bread and wine, the feast of the Lord where we are nourished. If we are willing to see, we are literally the Kingdom of God, here, now, loved by our King.
Oh, how Majestic a King you are my Lord! There in your Throne of Wood, with your Crown of Thorns, wearing your love, pouring out from your wounds! How can we serve you Lord? How can we learn to love the way you love us? Please, open our eyes to your World. Please increase our faith, hope and charity that we may be as you see us, your children and the princes and princesses of your Kingdom. Amen.
We are Ivonne Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.