If I asked you to picture Jesus… what image comes to mind? Do you imagine Him all grown up, or do you see Him as a child? Perhaps you see Jonathan Roumie from The Chosen walking around Galilee, or you see Jim Caviezel from The Passion of The Christ? Do you see Him walking on water, teaching in the synagogue, and feeding the crowds? Do you see Him enduring His Passion, saying His last words, taking His last breath? Or perhaps you see Him in His glorified body, walking through walls, ascending to the Father in Heaven?
But, how about as your priest? Does that image ever come to mind? Do you ever see Him in the priesthood of Christ?
Sometimes the gift comes unexpectedly, and it takes your breath away.
An elderly priest celebrated Mass for us one day. Frail and obviously in pain, he was determined to fulfill his mission. He struggled with each step as he leaned onto his cane. He went on to teach us about suffering, lessons learned by a lifetime of walking with God. He asked us to pray for him in his homily, but not for his suffering to be taken away. He asked us to pray instead for the souls that would be saved by the acceptance of his cross.
He taught us with his words, but he taught us more by his actions. The frailness of his body could not compete against the strength of his will because it was fueled by the grace of his ministerial priesthood; it was fired up in love.
As I saw him struggle up there, my heart was moved, and I wanted to help…but this was his task; he was the priest. Only by his words and actions would that piece of bread on the altar become the Bread of Life. Only by his words and actions would the cup of wine become the Blood of Our Lord.
We needed him to do his job. I thought of St. John Paul II leaning into his Cross, teaching us by his frailty the meaning of love. Holding my breath, I asked the angels to hold his arms up like Aaron and Hur did for Moses (Exodus 17:12). And then I saw…
During the Consecration prayer at Mass, I know the priest is acting "in persona Christi," in the person of Christ. I usually picture Jesus at the Last Supper, breaking the bread, blessing the wine. But this day, I saw something different.
As the elderly priest leaned into the altar and struggled to raise the Host, I saw Jesus crucified, suffering for us. His words, shaken with pain, poured out in love, united to the One He Loves, called Him down for us. The words "IN PERSONA CHRISTI" took on a new tone. This was not Jesus commanding the demons to leave with His voice; this was Jesus trampling down Satan with His silent obedience, with His unfailing Love… This was my Jesus, suffering, dying on the Cross for us.
When I think of the Holy Spirit in my life, I always think of Him as my “encourager.” He is here with me, always willing to help in everything. But I tend to forget… so He leaves me little gifts to help me remember.
There are times when I have a dream so vivid and wonderful that I feel that I am experiencing Heaven. I do not want my dream to stop, but I still wake up. I can’t wait until it is time to go to sleep again for a chance to experience that intimacy again... But the dreams are different every time, definitively not the same. When they come, I am reminded that those dreams are a unique gift for me, a means to encourage me.
I give Him thanks for the experience and then go on with daily life.
Often I focus on a task and become so immersed in what is happening that I “know” how it all works together and feel as one with everything. I do not want that feeling to end, but eventually, the task is done, and I fall out of that state. How much I wish I could get back into that state on-demand? But it doesn’t work like that. If I stop and think, I see His hand helping me out to accomplish my tasks.
I am reminded to give thanks for the gift received and then continue with my day.
I sometimes become so enthralled with the present moment, so in touch with how our Lord wants me to live in this world that I can sense everything around me in the most exquisite detail. I feel I can see, for that moment, Heaven on Earth; the veil separating them feels so thin that I could almost pierce through it... But then life happens, and I am asked to move on from that precious moment. How much do I wish to get there again...? But it is not within my power to will it. Yet, the experience convicts me that all of this is just transitory, that we usually can not see it, but we are waiting to go where God is.
I am reminded to give thanks for the encouragement I received from that moment of Grace.
All of these experiences are tiny marks on our path, breadcrumbs lining our way home. When we recognize them, we feel encouraged that we are on the right track.
You see, the One who loves us so much is always leaving behind these breadcrumbs in the path of our lives to guide us towards Him. I believe those breadcrumbs come from the Eucharistic Jesus, the True Bread of Life.
Whenever we see the breadcrumbs, it is an opportunity. Those graces that are given to us at any given moment are for us an invitation to stop and consider, figure out His will for us, and correct our course towards Him.
These opportunities are there sometimes, and only sometimes, for us to find so that our hope is strengthened on our journey home to Heaven. That taste of home that He gifts us strengthens our yearning for the hearth of Heaven that warms our soul. He reminds us He is present, tagging along, a faithful companion on our journey, the reason for our hope.
Let us pray. Come Holy Spirit and dwell within the hearts of your faithful. Guide us in all things. Be always our consoler, the deliverer of our hope. Help us to recognize You walking beside us on our way home. Amen.
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
The above reflection is a little longer than usual, a very necessary holy reminder. Today is the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in NYC, where close to 2,000 American citizens were killed; however, never forgotten. “When Jesus seems dead,” these words in the above excerpt from St. Peter Julian seemed to spring off the page for me right into the sorrowful of heart, the brokenhearted, and all of the suffering we see in our world today.
Receive and believe in the reception of Holy Communion to find Eucharistic love, resurrected love. An inner cenacle is formed between God and us, Jesus living within, a tabernacle of hope is formed in the mysteries of this life by our union with Jesus Christ. We need to guard this place by finding time to nourish it in prayer.
Who can heal the brokenhearted?
It is God alone with His faithful ones that bring hope to depths of the sorrowful of heart.
This past week we celebrated the Nativity of our Blessed Mother. It is a tradition in my home to sing to Mary with a little cake and tribute to our mother. Grateful to have set this annual remembrance in the hearts of my now adult daughters with my husband. St. Peter Julian reminds us to listen to Jesus, like Mary. It was in Our Lady’s inner life with God where she carried the joy of the Holy Spirit. The sin of the world crucified her Son; her heart remained united to Heaven in a resurrected love.
Sadness tries to destroy; situations that come upon us and our world are painful. Betrayal in relationships, loss of jobs, and an array of other things can lead us to feel abandonment, and this disconnects so many from God’s family.
The Reign of the Eucharist, St. Peter Julian. How do we reign in our family, loved ones, and those in our community who are far from the City of God? Far from our churches? Our hope is to keep our souls in a resurrected love, one that will raise others and embrace our brethren by sharing in the crosses of life to a rising inside to the inner cenacle of God’s mysterious love.
Trusting in God’s Word and Sacrament of Communion, together with Mary, makes it possible to live now in joy and hope until the fullness of Heaven will come.
I’ve always thought it would be nice to own a grandfather clock. The idea of a clock marking the passing hours with a chime just speaks to my heart. Perhaps the thought brings back memories of the clock at my grandparent’s house or the Church bells at our school. I’ve mentioned this desire to my husband a few times, and his reaction has always been the same… “That sounds like it would get annoying very quickly!” Needless to say, we don’t own a grandfather clock…yet, but I have acquired something that, in marking the passing of time, has had a considerable impact on my life. It is an app on my phone that reminds me to pray the Angelus.
For those of you who might not be familiar with it, the praying of the Angelus is an old devotion in the Catholic Church, where we remember the Incarnation and the role Mary played in the story of Salvation. Every day, at noon, my phone chimes. I stop what I am doing and, with bells ringing in the background, I unite my prayer to that of the Church. It takes less than a minute to pray, but I have to say, I feel like it has made a huge difference in my prayer life.
I love how this prayer invites me to slow down the passage of time. What I usually think of as one moment, one mystery, “The Incarnation,” is broken down into smaller moments. The prayer brings us in to participate in the conversation between Mary and the Angel. A back and forth between Heaven and earth. But there is something else. The way the bells just “show up” in my life, often catching me by surprise, is like God knocking on the door, checking up on me, saying, “What have you been doing with your time?”
Sometimes I am in the middle of writing an article or preparing an RCIA class. Other times I might be helping my son with schoolwork or ordering groceries online. But there are times when the bells find me scrolling down aimlessly through social media, or in other words, wasting my time.
Whether my morning was spent wisely or foolishly, this simple call to prayer has become a call to be awake, to stop, and to listen. What if death was the one who was calling this day? Would it find me ready? Would it find me at my station, fulfilling my duties, or would it find me indulging in some escapist behavior, being lulled to sleep by the white noise of the world?
“The angel of the Lord declared on to Mary…” Mary was ready. Will I be ready when it is my time? This prayer, this daily practice, helps me to keep this question in mind. Seeing how often I fail at it does not discourage me because I immediately repent and bring the Incarnation of Christ to mind. It is in this very prayer where the graces I seek are to be found. In pondering on the readiness and receptivity of Mary, I make room for those virtues to grow in my heart. This is how we grow and change, a little at a time. Falling, failing, but turning back to God each time.
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We are Ivonne J. Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
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