Dearest Eucharistic Family,
Time passes so swiftly, and in the activity of our lives, it is easy to forget this world as we know it is passing away. The Lenten Season stops us in our tracks to look up and to look within. Last year, I was blessed to be on a pilgrimage to Israel. I remember a beautiful Liturgy with the sun shining brightly, Mass on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Gazing out onto the water, kneeling on the bow of the boat, tears were streaming from my eyes. It was imagining Jesus walking on the water and the many miracles in the Holy Land that seeped into the depths of my existence and touched my heart so profoundly.
God keeps reminding me how much He loves. Our sins, shortcomings, and omissions set a tone for us to shy away rather than confidently behold God’s magnificent love for us. We are forgiven and invited to actively participate in our redemption by working out our salvation.
We can live in the mightiness of grace by our submission to God’s holy will. The gift of the Eucharist is strength for our frail humanity.
My spiritual father, Saint Peter Julian Eymard, had a dream that did not come to fruition. He desired to build a cenacle in Jerusalem. Saint Peter Julian had the details and the plans with every hope for this establishment to be made in the Holy Land. The revelation for the cenacle to be manifested in his heart by the annihilation of self was the fruit God manifested in this holy saint, later titled “Apostle of the Eucharist.” In letting go, God’s love filled Saint Peter Julian so immensely that he desired to become a total Gift of Self in return for all the love he received. The cenacle, the Altar, brings to us the Body of Jesus Christ. In our reception of Holy Communion, God’s love for us overcomes every obstacle. When we comply with grace and truly live as forgiven, we can embrace and share the blessings of living in the love of God found in the Holy Eucharist.
Our Lord in Matthew’s Gospel invites us to cleanse our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls; we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Lent is a good time to examine the fruits and gifts given to us and bring them to the cenacle, where they will be built into God’s love and dwelling forever.
“Tell us a bit about yourself.” That moment when a group meets for the first time and they ask everyone this question always gives me pause. Often, whoever answers first creates a pattern the rest of the group follows. Sometimes, they will say their name and where they come from. Other times, they will say their name, what they do for a living, and perhaps why they came to this particular meeting. How we answer that question can give us some insight, not only on how well we know ourselves, but on how secure we feel in our identity. Do we answer with a list of things we do, or do we talk about who we are? Does the answer depend on who is asking? Does it change depending on where we are?
Jesus first asks the disciples to tell Him what others say about Him, for He knows that is what our minds first look for. What is the people’s opinion, and where do we fall within that. But then He asks them as individuals. He asks them to step out of the crowd and seek the answer within their own hearts. “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
Do we know Jesus? Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of the Living God, the Messiah, the Bread of Life… Do we know Him? Or do we mainly know about Him? In other words, have we had a personal encounter with Jesus, or do we mainly know what others say about Him? Which is better? I’d like to propose that they are both good, yet one is definitely more important, as it is the goal of our existence. We are made to be in relationship with God. To encounter Him is to know Him.
When we hear about Jesus, we will be moved to seek Him; we will thirst to meet Him. When we have an encounter with Jesus, we will be moved to learn everything we can about Him. Can a finite creature ever learn everything about infinite Love?
The mind-blowing part of this love equation is that, though we will never know everything about God, He definitely knows everything about each one of us. He knows especially well the parts that are hidden even to our own selves. And, knowing everything about us, the good and the bad, He loves us.
INFINITE LOVE loves me. This is who I am. Do I know this? Do I believe it? Do I receive it?
What do we know of the story of the Samaritan Woman (John 4:4-42)? We know the woman at the well had an encounter with Jesus that transformed not only her life, but the lives of those around her. “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (v.29). When we read between the lines, we realize that it is not just that He knew all she had done that changed her; the devil could do that too. But it was the experience of being fully known and fully loved that transformed her heart.
When she realized who was speaking to her, who was taking time to pay attention to her, to love her, it was then that she realized her worth.
“Body of Christ” As we hear these words and look up at the tiny host, do we realize WHO is asking to come into our flesh and be united with us? “Blood of Christ” As we hear these words and look up at the chalice, do we realize WHO is thirsting for us?
When we say Amen, we are assenting that this is indeed the Living God, the Resurrected Jesus, the One Who died for us. Realizing who is speaking to us, who is taking the time to pay attention to and love us… What does that say about who we are? What does it say about who we belong to? If we want to know our truest, deepest identity, we must first seek within our hearts the answer to his question, “But who do you say that I am?”
We see time and time again that Christ calls all peoples to Himself, especially those who are ill and need healing. We read and hear that our Lord tends to the pain of the suffering with His very own hands. Jesus does not question the pain but instead acknowledges the suffering. Moved by His compassionate heart, He gave back sight to the blind, washed clean the lepers, gave back hearing to the deaf, restored the paralyzed, and forgave the repentant sinners. Jesus, our Lord, is the Heavenly Physician, and the Church He left for us is meant to be a hospital. The Church is intended to offer healing, if somewhat different from the miracles we hear in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
Pope Francis goes further to say that our Church is a field hospital out into the world. He said the early Church is depicted as “a field hospital that takes in the weakest people: the infirm.” And that “The sick hold a privileged role in the Church and in the priestly heart of all the faithful. They are not to be cast aside. On the contrary, they are to be cared for, to be looked after. They are the objects of Christian concern.”
And I long for the day that we are all united with Christ in our love and concern for those among us who are ill, infirm, lonely, sad, depressed, dying, or living in desolation and poverty. Yet the reality we see is much different from this. People today want our Church to be an exclusive club, closed to those most in need of Christ’s love, mercy, and healing. We forget what it is to be as Christ. Did He not tend to those most in need?
In the sacrifice of the Eucharist, I see Christ’s heart hurting for us, calling us to love as He did, to care as He did. The Church is not a club but a place of healing.
I am often privy to conversations where one criticizes another or complains that someone is not doing the right things, and I am amazed at how easy it is for us to pass judgment upon our brother. Often, I find those judgments so unfair, for we do not know the whole story or situation. We are not omniscient. Only God knows the entire story, and judgment is reserved for Him.
Let me share a story I read long ago.
Fighting against sin is a life-long endeavor that will require all our strength.
As with the monk, we need our Most Blessed Mother to pray for us. That is why we implore Mother Mary to “pray for us now and at the time of our death” that we may resist the temptation to abandon hope. We do not want to stop the struggle against sin, especially at the last moment.
The life-long fight against sin worked on the monk the same way a river polishes a river stone. Eventually, the friction rounds us up. In the struggle, the monk found fidelity, hope, and faith. He never gave up, and God never gave up on him. For his life’s work fighting against sin, he was recompensed with a host of angels escorting him up to Heaven. Can you imagine this glorious day in the House of our Lord?
The monastery was a field hospital for the monk. We thank God for the Elder who gave his time, love, and compassion. He helped raise a saint.
But what about the pilgrims of the story? Don’t they sound a little bit like us today? Let us learn this lesson of love and compassion and try to do better than the pilgrims, for the same way we have our stories of struggle, so do our brothers and sisters. Let us keep an open mind and lend a hand to those struggling and fighting against sin. Let us always remember we are all in this fight.
Let us pray: “Dear God, please give me strength when I am weak, love when I feel forsaken, courage when I am afraid, wisdom when I feel foolish, comfort when I am alone, hope when I feel rejected, and peace when I am in turmoil. Amen.” (Unknown Author)