Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Body and Blood of our Lord

One of the great saints of the twentieth century was Saint Faustina Kowalski.

She was born in Poland in 1905, and around the age of 20, decided to serve the Lord as a nun, becoming a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy.

After several years of prayer and service to others, she began receiving mystical visions of our Lord. In moments of intense prayer, Jesus would appear to her and speak of the great love he has for sinners. He chose her to spread the message of his divine mercy. He wanted her to tell the world that no matter how great our sins may be, God is willing to forgive us, cleanse us of our wickedness and strengthen us to live a good life. At the urging of her spiritual director, she kept a diary of all the words Jesus spoke to her.

Saint Faustina had a deep devotion to the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. She would spend hours gazing at the tabernacle marveling that Jesus would give himself to us in the form of bread and wine. Many of her conversations with Jesus focused on how he longed for us to receive him in the Blessed Sacrament. He told her how sad it made him that we so often receive the Eucharist without realizing what a great gift we are being given.

In one of her diary entries, she writes the following words from the mouth of our Lord:

When I come to a heart in holy communion, my hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay attention to me. They leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things.... They treat me as a dead object. (Diary, 1385).

These words of our Lord should make us all stop and think. How do we receive the Body of Christ? Are we focused on the tremendous gift we are about to welcome into our bodies? Have we prepared our hearts to be the dwelling place for our Risen Lord? Do we receive him with wonder, joy and deep devotion? Jesus, who visits us disguised as bread and wine, deserves no less than our full attention and most profound gratitude.

During his earthly life, people could see Jesus. They could hear his voice and touch him. Who he really was - the eternal Son of God - was hidden. Many chose not to believe. But those who did believe received healing, witnessed miracles and had their lives changed forever.

We see it in today's gospel. The people come by the thousands to hear him speak. Many of them are healed of their sickness and disabilities. Most importantly, their eyes are opened to the love God has for them. They are so caught up in their love for Jesus and the joy of being in his presence that they do not want to leave.

Jesus is here among us today. He promised that where two or three are gathered in his name, he would be among them. He is also present in his word. When the Scriptures are proclaimed, it is God himself who speaks to us. And in a most marvelous way, he is present in the Eucharist. When the bread and wine we offer as gifts are consecrated by the priest, they become the very Body and Blood of our Risen Savior. They are not merely symbols. They are not offered simply to remind us of his love. They become Jesus - his body, blood, soul and divinity. It is Jesus himself - the one who healed the sick, who ate with sinners, who died on the cross, and who rose on the third day - who comes to us in this tremendous gift of the Eucharist.

And so whenever we come to Mass we should be prepared to meet Jesus. We should make sure if we have committed any serious sins that we go to confession so that our hearts are pure. We should already have in mind what graces we will ask for when we receive. Nothing is beyond God's power to do for us. If we need to be healed of sickness, it is certainly possible. That is why we pray before communion, "only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." If we are plagued by a sin that we keep on committing, God is certainly capable of giving us the strength to fight temptation. If we are burdened by guilt or overwhelmed by our feelings of inadequacy as we approach Jesus, we can rest assured that he has a deep and sincere love for us. His mercy can cover any sin and forgive any offense.

There is one attitude, however, that he will not accept - indifference. We should never receive the Body of Jesus without thinking long and hard about who it is who is giving himself to us. We should never receive Jesus without at the very least thanking him for his love and mercy. We should never receive Jesus without pouring our hearts out to him in joy for making himself so accessible to us.

Jesus called Saint Faustina to spread the message of his love and mercy. Nowhere do we experience that love and mercy more intensely than in the communion we are about to share. We are called to this supper not because we are good people or because we somehow deserve it. We are here today, like the multitudes who gathered to hear him speak, because we need his mercy, his healing and his peace. We are broken people who have no other hope except him. His heart is moved for us, just as it was moved by the hunger of the crowds. And he will not fail to feed us from the abundance of his grace. We need only to believe, to approach him with humility and to commit ourselves to feeding others just as we have been fed.

(image by Marisol Sousa)

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