By: Ivonne Hernandez
When we speak of the human heart, we speak of a twofold reality. We speak of the organ at the center of the body, which purifies and pumps the blood that flows through the whole body, and we speak of the hidden center of the human soul, the place of decision, the place of truth. The heart “is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant” (CCC, 2563). St. Peter Julian tells us that devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament is the soul and center of all religion. When we receive the Eucharist and allow His heart to transform ours, we can then become the heart of His mystical body, allowing His grace to flow to all its members.
When Jesus was asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”, He replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:28-31). The second commandment flows from the first. If we love God with all our heart, if we respond to His love with love, he will change our hearts of stone and give us a new heart of flesh (Ez 36:26). Loving God with all our heart means giving Him our whole heart. He wants our broken hardened hearts, so He can transform our wounds from sources of sin into sources of grace, for ourselves and for others. This new heart, this heart of flesh, this source of grace, is really His own heart beating in us, dwelling within us, in the place of covenant, the hidden center of the human soul. This most beautiful Sacred Heart, the model and life of love, is with us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We receive Him, we adore Him, we love Him. He transforms us into Himself.
“The unity of the Mystical Body produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice” (CCC, 791). We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, but what about His heart? Jesus is the Head of His Mystical Body, and we, the Church, are the rest. We must bring all of Him to the world. We must become that Heart, overflowing with His Blood, pumping His Grace to every part of the Body. When circulation is cut off, the body gets diseased and a part has to be amputated if blood flow is not restored in time. By remaining united to the Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, we are directly connected to the source of life, and, by remaining in Him and allowing Him to work through us, we can bring His love to our neighbor, who is really part of our own Body in Christ.
It is in this unity of the Mystical Body that we celebrate today the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In honoring Our Mother, in rejoicing together, we become a community of one heart and mind. And together, with Our Mother, we adore the Sacred Heart. “May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment in all the Tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.”
By: Rick Hernandez
A few decades back, my parents traveled to upstate NY to lead a retreat with a group of their missionary brothers and sisters. They landed at the airport and were met by their hosts, who were also waiting for a few of the retreat participants arriving on a different flight. Weather problems were affecting the airport and a few flights were cancelled. Talking amongst themselves, they wondered whether the people in-transit were going to make it in at all. After a while, the flights did get cancelled. In a corner away from them was a young man, lying on the floor and reeking of alcohol. He had been listening intently to their conversation; he reached out his hand and with a desperate voice said: “If they cannot make it, take me instead. I will go.”
Now, let us imagine ourselves in that situation… this is a group of catholic missionaries, that now had two openings for the retreat, and a man, intoxicated, down on his luck, asking them to let him go with them. What would we have done?
Through the virtue of Prudence, the Holy Spirit begets the gift of Counsel, allowing us to judge a situation promptly and rightly. Our merciful missionaries, taking counsel from the Holy Spirit, reached out their hands and grasped the young man’s hand. They invited him to come with them. During the retreat they provided for him, listened to his story, taught him of the love of Christ, and put him in contact with a group from the local parish. That retreat changed his life. The local parish group cared for him, helped him to get back on his feet, to get back to the dignity of a well-lived life. He discovered Christ acting in his life through the actions of others.
"Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes. You are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours." - St Teresa of Avila
That young man is now a not-so-young man, a leader of his community of faith, a solid member of society, and a loving reminder of the Mercy of God. He is today the one that reaches out his hand to help others in need. “…We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Lk 15:32). We have recovered our brother by our willingness to allow God’s love to act through us, His Body.
When we are all together at the Eucharistic banquet, sharing of the love of our Lord with our brothers and sisters, I am reminded that there are some that are not present, and we ache for them. I think about this often. How many people went through that airport that day? How many of them spared a look towards that young man? How many exchanged a word or two with him? How many smiled? How many offered to share a part of a meal? How many listened to his story? How many spent a minute or so, thinking about a loved one because of him? How many wondered what would Jesus do? What would I have done? It only takes one merciful soul to reach out to another and acknowledge Christ in them. Would that merciful soul have been mine? What would keep me from doing so?
There are so many in need, yet the enemy is always conspiring against us, always attempting to cast us one against the other. We must not let the enemy discourage us from helping. We must hold fast to charity and nurture it in our hearts, for it is the most important of the virtues that the Holy Spirit imparts on us. Let us love one another. Let us care. Let us fight the apathy that the enemy uses. Christ has no body now on earth but ours. Can we help a soul find its way home? Can we help all our souls find their way home?
“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand…, without cost you have received; without cost you are to give… As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you” (Mt 10:7-8,11-12). Let us both be good and do good; let us reach out our hands to the neglected ones, without being discouraged. Let us also accept the hand that is offered to us in the peace and mercy of Christ, that we may all work together towards the goal of Heaven, for it is hard to imagine Heaven without all of us there.
May our Good Lord bless us abundantly with Love, Mercy, Prudence and Right Judgement. Amen.
By: Laura Worhacz
“He comes to Mary! What! So much ceremony for this unknown maiden! Yes-worldly prestige does not amount to so much, after all, does it? This rather sets at defiance our human standards! We only see things that dazzle; we only put a value on such things as gold and diamonds. But what do things amount to? In the Eternal values they are only fit to trample underfoot like worthless pebbles- hell is paved for such things.” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Eymard Library Vol. 7, page 39)
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
In a conversation about spiritual things, someone I love very much said to me this week, “that is not the real world”. This statement came with me in prayer, where I heard God’s voice cry out, “I am with you”, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). The promise of Our Father in Heaven to send us the Holy Spirit through the life-giving love of Jesus Christ is with us. Our spiritual reality is eternal, this life temporal.
This Pentecost the gifts of the Holy Spirit seem more profound to me than ever. The real world is our union with Heaven now; it lives in the Eucharist. Saint Paul clearly reminds us that our faith is in vain if it does not live in the resurrection (1 Cor 15:2-4). We are invited to a banquet of love that is fashioned in trust. There is a place in the deep recesses of our being that is affixed to God Our Father by our consent. We hand over all we have to receive God’s compassion and mercy.
We sing daily, “Our foes press on from every side…” Evil is cast upon the earth, principalities and powers wage war; however, Jesus has won for us eternal life. We are baptized into Christ’s love; this is our spiritual and earthly reality. Living in this world, with the privilege of knowing Heaven now, invites us to peace beyond our human capacities. Just as the blood of the lamb was set over the homes of the Israelites to protect, the place we will live permanently as a member of the household of God is covered now by the Blood of the Lamb of God. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been cast over our existence. We are loved. Although we cannot control the evil of our world, we can live in the choice of our free will to correspond to the spiritual realities among us. Close your eyes and imagine the angels; picture Jesus and Our Lady preparing your room in the Halls of Heaven. Think of the Holy Spirit flashing flames of fire within your soul and the blood poured out. The winds of Heaven help the spirit fly as the blood of the lamb is continuing to come down.
We truly receive by our belief. The life of the world to come is with us now. During this most turbulent time, more than we could ever have imagined living through, let us cling to the spiritual reality that God is with us. Let us offer our sufferings to the mystery of God’s love, a mystery that is beyond our understanding. Let us docilly fall into the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to go forth and be a living witness to all. Jesus blessed us with in His Passion, Death and Rising. Compliant to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, let us live in the spiritual reality on earth as in Heaven, the real world. Through the heart of Mary, we remember to believe in all the Lord asked of her and in her likeness do this in Memory of Jesus.
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
Just like you can catch more flies with honey, you can change more hearts with kindness. I once watched a video that showed different people in a hospital lobby. As they walked in and out of the elevator and greeted each other with a smile, a caption would come up and reveal to the viewer the hidden struggle in their hearts. One had just received a cancer diagnosis; one had just lost a child. One after the other, they each carried a burden invisible to others’ eyes. The message of the video was, “You never know what someone is going through. Be kind.” Being kind is not always easy but it is always right. But the kindness I am speaking about is much more than simply “being nice”; it is one of the attributes of the Spirit of God, “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor 13:4).
I find it easier to be kind when I either have a pretty good idea of what someone is going through because I’ve gone through something similar, or when I have no idea at all of what they are going through and allow myself to give them the “benefit of the doubt”. I find it hardest to be kind when I know “some” of what they are going through. When I know just enough to form an opinion, but not enough to truly empathize. And if I think their choices will end up negatively affecting me, then I find it even harder to be kind. The choices of others affect us. “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Cor 12:26). It can be unnerving when we see others taking actions that might negatively affect us, yet we are still called to be kind.
Kindness is intimately connected to mercy. You can’t have kindness without mercy, and you can’t have mercy without love. These actions come from the love of God and move towards love of neighbor, fulfilling then the law of love. So, kindness is not merely being nice for our own benefit, or to avoid conflict, but it is necessarily focused on the other. It is sharing with another the very love of God. A truly kind gesture or word has the power to change another’s life, to be a light shining in the dark. It is through our own prayer that this light will shine. As we take the time to nurture our relationship with God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, His fruit will grow in us. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). It is then we will have the grace to be truly kind.
By: Rick Hernandez
We are imperfect. We err often. We make mistakes. This is absolutely an intrinsic part of the human existence, and it is a fact that our mistakes help pave the road of our experience. It is in our human imperfection, in this human limitation that we live in, that Christ calls us to greater heights. "Be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Christ directly states what is the goal. The goal is perfection. But what does perfection mean? What is Christ really asking us to be?
We are never going to be perfect, not in the meaning of the word we use today. The original Greek word used in the Gospel of Matthew is "teleioi", which comes from the word "telos", meaning "to be complete" or "to achieve its end". We are imperfect, yet we can work towards fulfilling our purpose and achieving our end, thus reaching for that completeness that we are called to seek.
Thomas Aquinas asserts the following correspondences between the seven Capital Virtues and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
How pure is the love of the Father, that allows us to make our mistakes, yet offers loving guidance towards the right way for us? The road is forward towards the way of growth, the way of experience. Experience allow us to grow in our wisdom and understanding. This understanding allows us then to work diligently towards our completion, towards fulfilling our purpose, and our purpose is to completely unite ourselves with our Lord, to be like Christ, to make it to Heaven. "I have called you by your name: you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1). He calls us, just as we are. He claims us, for He knows exactly who we are. He waits for us, for He knows both our time and our path.
The host that the priest consecrates during Mass is but a piece of bread before the Consecration takes place. It is an imperfect object, but after the Consecration, that imperfect host becomes the Body of our Lord, becomes perfect. This perfection cannot be seen with human eyes but we both know and feel its perfection, for it is Jesus Eucharistic, fulfilling His purpose, showing us the end of the work of Redemption, perfect, complete. In the humble Eucharist we receive His perfect gifts: perfect love, perfect faith, perfect hope.
We are called to achieve our end, to fulfill our purpose, and it is the virtue of Hope that allows us to continue moving forward. Imperfect, incomplete as we are, we can ask God to perfect our charity to be just like His. We can ask God to perfect our faith in Him who is faithful. We can ask God to perfect our hope, that we may draw closer to our goal. Our love convicts us. Our faith emboldens us. Our hope encourages us. Imperfectly perfect we are called to be.
This week, as we are praying the Novena of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), let's take time to meditate on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we may grow towards our call to "telos" (perfection), which is only attainable with God's help. We pray to the Holy Spirit to move us, that His will for us be done, that we may "be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
By: Laura Worhacz
“She ascended Calvary with Jesus, to die with Him; she came down therefrom with the beloved disciple … Later, she would conduct them to the Eucharistic Cenacle, there to begin her Christian maternity at the foot of the Divine Sacrament.” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Eymard Library, Volume 7, page 96)
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
We are blessed to have a mother through Our Lady’s Christian maternity. By Mary receiving the flesh of Christ at the announcement of Gabriel and birthing Jesus into the world, her maternity begins. Mary takes us as mother; she conceived us in the death of Christ; she rose with Jesus to continue to live her divine maternity.
Through the pandemic outbreak of the coronavirus I have been intensely thinking about the Eucharistic life, especially the daily adorers and communicants since the suspension of Mass. Jesus is with us in His promise to be with us to the consummation of the world. (Matt 28:20). So where is the Lord if we are suspended from the Eucharist? It seems the grace Mary received in her espousal to the Holy Spirit is the same grace we will receive through the life of the Holy Spirit in us. We are one with God; the Holy Spirit enables life in the hearts of the believer through our consent. Our own Christian maternity thus begins.
Our Lady truly brings us to the Eucharistic Cenacle; her yes is passed to us, her children, through divine maternity. The life of the Holy Spirit will be with us in a magnified way this Pentecost. We prepare for the gifts by remembering them, seeking them, and praying for them. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and the fear of the Lord. Mary’s Eucharistic maternity came forth from her relationship with the Holy Spirit. Mother lead us to the gifts…especially now when the Eucharist is far from reception for many.
It is in our own ascension to Calvary where we find the grace of God dwelling within, for then we call out to God in our longing and desire for peace. We each have a cross to bear this side of Heaven. In our death of self, we rise to God’s life in us. We remember our mother and the way in which she attained her Christian maternity. Mary’s desire is for us, her children, to bring the faith of the resurrection to the next generation, and to find a place of rest in her motherly arms, in her nurturing heart. This is the wisdom she received to guide us to the Eucharistic Cenacle.
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
I sometimes think of how great it would be to be able to look at a piece of art and know if it is real or not by examining it, to know the fingerprint of the artist so well, that a counterfeit would not fool me. To acquire that level of knowledge would take a lot of time and effort; you would need to truly know the artist. In most cases, the artist is long gone, but their works remain. It is by studying their works, immersing yourself in them, that you can ever hope to be able to tell the difference between an authentic work of art, and a fake. Why would anyone want to do that? Why even care? Because authorship is important. It is not just a matter of talent; a forger must be very talented to be able to copy a great work of art. But a forger is not creative; he is just a pretender whose talents are misused. The author of a work imparts it with some of its own self, creating something new; authorship gives the work it’s value. When we search for authorship, we are searching for truth. Why? Because truth matters, and deep down, we know it. But learning to discern the truth takes effort, and time. And accepting truth requires a willingness to deal with its consequences. It means valuing truth above comfort, valuing truth above convenience. “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).
Truth matters; it is everything. If you doubt that, think back to a time you discovered you had been lied to, betrayed. Betrayal can cause one of the deepest wounds in the human heart. It makes you question everything, even the truth of who you are; it affects your ability to trust. Unfortunately, I have quite a few of those stories to look back on, and I am sure the same is likely to be true for you. The human condition is such that we hurt each other, sometimes willingly, but many times unknowingly. We become so accustomed to a life of lies and half-truths that we believe the biggest lie of all…that we can’t handle the truth. But truth matters. If we want to learn to discern the truth, we must immerse ourselves in the Truth. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (Jn 14:6). The world will try to dazzle us with counterfeits, with lies adorned with bits of truth, but it is up to each of us to choose. Do we want to live the life of truth we were created for, or do we choose to believe that we are not worth it after all? It is in Christ that we find the Truth of who we are.
A work of art has worth by its connection to its author, even when it has been damaged but not destroyed. Its value is such that experts will spend painstaking hours carefully restoring it to its original glory. The same is true for us. “We are God’s work of art” (Eph 2:10). If we look in the mirror of God’s love and look past the scratches and the damage, we will see the image of the One who created us, inviting us to trust in Him. “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13). Who would be better suited to restore an original work than the very author of the work? When we surrender to His care and allow Him to pour love in each of our wounds, He painstakingly restores us to the image of His Son. “He restores my soul” (Ps 23:3). By his authority as creator not only can God restore His work, but He can make of us something completely new. Trust in Him, because in the end, each tear and drop of sweat will be worth it. “Behold, I make all things new… Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true” (Rev 21:5).
We are Ivonne Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.