When I was young, I thought to myself that my parish priest had the best and easiest life ever! I thought he only has to worry about Mass then go home. I thought he has it all set since people invited him to dinner a lot, so there should be no need to worry about cooking or going hungry either! I was envious and wanted that life as a kid. Oh, was I so wrong… I now understand that life is not that easy as a parish priest. There are many challenges in the priesthood; however, I have learned and personally understood in a real way that the priesthood has to be Eucharist-centered and eucharistic in words and actions.
What we receive in love at Mass needs to be enlivened both in words and actions, for we do not live our faith only in church. We can only be changed when our lives are filled with the love that Christ has for us in the Eucharist, because that very understanding internalizes, permeates, and transforms us deep from within, which, in turn, makes us become eucharistic — thankful and life-giving — in our everyday interactions, words, and actions.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori said in his Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary that,
“When the Son of God became human, He hid His divinity under humanity. But in this sacrament, Christ even hides His humanity. He appears under the form of bread to show how tenderly and warmly He loves us. ‘The divine is hidden; the human is hidden; love alone is left for all to see,’ remarks Saint Bernard.”
He continued to ponder:
“My Redeemer, such lavish love leaves me speechless. To show your love for humanity, you veil majesty, you hide glory, you disguise divine life! In the tabernacle, you seem to have only one concern: to prove to souls how much you are interested in them. But do souls thank you in return? Your intense love for us seems to place our good above your glory. You knew what insults would come your way. You realized that many people would not love you; that many would not believe you are present in this sacrament; that some would crush you under their feet and abuse you in various other ways. Even those who believe in you sometimes offend you with their irreverence in church. Others never come to visit you at all and even neglect to care for the altar on which you live. My Jesus I wish I could inspire every human being to love you. Make yourself known and loved (to me)!”
How wonderful it is to have the Savior who loves us so much that He chose to do something that is beyond our comprehension and so radical, something that only God who is so passionately in love with us could ever imagine! In the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us how to love by the personal giving of ourselves, not simply to manipulate and hurt other people around us, but to truly give ourselves genuinely and wholeheartedly. There is a great quote that often appears on the internet by Bobby Mattingly that pervade this important reality beautifully: “If you have to hurt other people in order to feel powerful, you are an extremely weak individual.”
Without a doubt, true power is not found in scapegoating, controlling, and demanding outrageous things from others. It does not come from trying to put other people down in order to lift ourselves up, playing with others’ emotions and pities, or simply trying to create division. True power does not come in demanding absolutes, total docility, choking the life of others, or stabbing people behind their backs as to feel good about one’s self or to transfer the subconscious self-hatred to others.
If we do those things in order to feel good, we will only feel good momentarily, but continue to be locked up in our own self-created hell. If we do not know what it means to love, we will remain pitiful and pushing everyone away from us. True power is found in love, even if it means that this self-giving love will not be answered or given back in return! As a matter of fact, the Lord knows exactly what He got Himself into, yet He chose to do it willingly out of love for us. The Savior gave us His very own self on the Cross, and again at each and every Eucharistic Sacrifice because He loves us. Therefore, only in receiving Him with love and willingly become eucharistic with our words and actions can we transform this world with genuine, self-giving, transparent, and true love.
There are two wonderful expressions in Spanish that beautifully express eucharistic love that I would like to share with you. They also calm the nerve when one is faced with uncertainties. The first one is the word, “Tranquilo!” I love it when someone is nervous or anxious, asking another person questions after questions, cannot sit still, filled with many things, that one-word answer reminds one to be at peace and to seek the much-needed tranquility. The second one is a common expression and phrase when one is asked how are things going in his or her life. “Estoy contento!” is such a great expression, in my honest opinion! While one could say that he or she is happy, this or that, to say that one is content speaks much volume. Especially in a day and age where we often define happiness with euphoric sentiments and emotions, contentment is a very important reminder that we do not have to be euphorically high and fulfilled to be happy and at peace with ourselves and with what we have in our lives. Think about it! The greatest discovery in life, especially for us as the people of faith, is not having everything and being able to do everything. True peace comes when we are at peace and content with what we have, blessings, challenges, and all. It flows from the heart of gratitude, thanksgiving, and able to share that grateful love to others.
People can tell if we are genuine or not! They can tell if our joy is real or not. People can really tell if we are trying to love and forgive or only speak empty words. Therefore, if we are not genuine, we are liars and hypocrites. However, if we try our best to become eucharistic every day, we will genuinely change the world — one person at a time — for what we receive at Mass is shared and enlivened in our very lives. Life is not easy, and to really love as Christ loves us is not easy at all, but it is real and worthwhile! Let us take heed with what St. Paul reminded us from his letter to the Romans, “Affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint.” (cf. 5:1-5)
Therefore, let us not lose hope when the trials of this world hit us. If God allows those trials to happen, He will give us enough grace to endure and overcome them. He will not abandon us if He permits them to happen, knowing that His grace is enough for us and that they will help strengthen our character. Even though we might struggle in the trials, kicking and screaming, we are reminded of real hope that is found in Christ Jesus and His promise to us — and this hope is real. His love for us is real; therefore, we put our hope in Him who is always faithful to us. Our Christian hope does not disappoint because it is firmly grounded in His faithfulness.
I would like to invite each and every one of us to really reflect on His love for us so that the Eucharist is not received in vain, not remain as something symbolic, or something to be done because everyone else is doing it. May we receive the Eucharist worthily and with real love so that our hope is grounded and our faith is strengthened by His love for us. May we become eucharistic as we receive Him with true devotion and conviction! May our lives become a real manifestation of praise, thanksgiving, and self-giving love as He has loved us.
“O Sacrament most holy, o Sacrament divine. All praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment thine!”