Monday, February 08, 2016

To starve for Eternal Sustenance

Every week, on the Lord's day, a Eucharistic minister pays my family a visit to enable my mother to receive Holy Communion despite her temporary inability to go out and attend Holy Mass in church. My mother had been hospitalized in 2015 for a heart ailment, and though declared well enough to be discharged after a couple of weeks, her doctor was emphatic about limiting physical exertion and avoiding all sources of stress. This warranted significant adjustments on her lifestyle, including doing away with trips to the nearby church – on Sundays and any day for that matter. As any Catholic faithful knows, being deprived of the Eucharist all of a sudden is akin to going on a hunger strike when one has been accustomed to taking three squares a day. One simply becomes weaker in the spiritual sense when the soul isn’t nourished by the Lord in the Eucharist. Hence, my mother’s reception of Holy Communion was soon worked out after making arrangements with the parish in our community.

The weekly visits by the Eucharistic minister have been going on for four months now, and while one may fall into momentarily taking them for granted, the implication of those few minutes that Brother Gil – the Eucharistic minister -- spends with us is not lost to me. They may be brief – not more than 10 or 15 minutes each time – but who is timing when one realizes Who really enters the gate, is carried up the few steps toward the front door and waits patiently to be received into a soul ready for such an important Guest?

One Sunday, as Brother Gil walked into the living room and cheerfully greeted my mother, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. “I should’ve done some dusting… straightened the throw pillows, smoothened the upholstery…” I quietly lamented, chiding myself for forgetting the details of preparing for the arrival of a Special Guest.  In that moment, I had been mulling over the fact that instead of my mother and I making the effort to approach Jesus in His house, it was God coming to us and entering our home. Those moments were immensely humbling, and at the same time also very reassuring – reassuring of God’s love for us to the point of being willing to approach us in those times we are unable to go to Him. Who would not want to cultivate and continually nourish a relationship with such a Person, when He obviously knows how to love? And who wouldn’t want to be friends with Someone like that? At this thought I am reminded of a point that I always find encouraging; it’s from the book Jesus as Friend: Meditations by Salvatore Canals:

“You and I know by experience how much good a good friendship can do someone: it helps him behave better, it brings him closer to God, it keeps him away from evil. And if a good friendship links us not just to a good man but to a saint, the good effects of that kind of life are multiplied: contact and conversation with a holy person will leave us with something of his holiness: cum sanctis, sanctus eris! if you mix with saints, you will be a saint yourself.

Well then: think what can happen if you become close friends of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist: think of the deep impression that can make on your soul. You will have Jesus as a Friend, Jesus will be your Friend. He – perfect God and perfect Man – who was born and worked and wept; who has stayed in the Eucharist; who suffered and died for us!”

Last week my mother and I attended Sunday Mass in church again for the first time in many months. Her health has improved significantly; she has ditched the wheelchair for some time now and is comfortable walking slowly – and over short distances – with the aid of her cane. This Sunday instead of the Lord “making the trip” to our home, we will be going to His house, taking part in the Liturgy, worshipping with the community, and approaching the altar to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. For a long time it was He approaching us, and from time to time we, sadly, took this act of love for granted. Fortunately, such instances are temporary; apparently, hunger for the Lord eventually overpowers everything else. Perhaps one merely needs to experience being deprived of that which truly feeds the soul and quenches our thirst, to keep on seeking it. As the Most Rev. Robert Barron, DD, said during the recent International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City, “We have to remember what is like to starve for the Bread of Life.”

Memories of starvation of this sort are things I would gladly hold on to. For remembering the hunger seems to be what drives us to keep seeking the Lord in the Eucharist with fervor.

With the din of battle only a half mile away, these Korean War soldiers pause to receive communion during mass. (Source: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum)

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