Below is a talk given at a recent Lenten Mission; Dead no more - Alive in Christ! This talk was given during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This mission night was based on the following readings, Genesis 17: 3-8 and Matthew 26: 26-30.
(Internet Image from Fong)
I. “Take and eat; this is my body.” … “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant…”
Jesus commands us to receive Him in the Eucharist. It is not optional! Why is the Eucharist so important? Because, without receiving Christ, fully present in the Eucharist, we have no life. Our own sin gets in the way of grace. Yet, God made us for life, to be fully alive in and through Christ.
From the moment Adam and Eve took and ate the fruit from the tree of life, death entered humanity. This death was never intended by God. It was their choice, and it is our own choice each time we fail in love and turn away from God in sin. This death is not immediate, but it is like taxes, inevitable.
I know we don’t like to talk about it. Who does? But we all know, in our deepest self, that sin is deadly as it separates us from God. He does not walk away from us. We, like a spoiled child having a tantrum, turn away from Him.
God does not want this death for anyone. Every Sacrament is a Godly rescue mission that began on the cross. In every Sacrament, Jesus enters us to heal us from the inside out. His death becomes our death. His life restores our life. Gloriously, His resurrection also becomes our resurrection. But like any rescue mission, we must be open to being saved. We must take the hand of mercy offered.
We hear God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:3-8. He desires a people to be His own. Through Baptism, we are God’s own, his chosen people with all the blessings that entails. But like the people of Israel, so often, we turn from true life and accept death for quickly passing fleshy happiness and worship at other altars. They are very alluring; pleasure, power, money, ambition, but deadly. In many ways, through sin, we choose to be the walking dead.
II. Art Imitates Life.
Think of the zombies awkwardly stumbling around in the popular TV show, the Walking Dead. These zombies have one goal; to satisfy their hunger through earthly things. They are dead and they don’t even know it. That is the world without Christ. This is how desperate the situation is. This is why the call to evangelization is so important.
God desperately wants us to be fully alive. St Peter writes that,
[God] is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
It is for this purpose that Jesus came. Jesus tells us,
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
He wants to restore the life that we so casually cast aside through sin. He wants for us what He promised to Abraham. He wants us to be exceedingly fertile in all our endeavors. He wants us to live as Kings in a land which He promises. He wants for us a permanent home where each day is better than the last for eternity. Imagine that! God does not desire our death. We choose that. He wants our true, complete, and eternal happiness. This happiness can only originate in God, who then becomes our joy. St Jane De Chantal tells us that,
… God, if we saw him as he is, we should die of love for him. If we saw his divine heart as he sings the canticle in praise of the Divinity with a voice of infinite sweetness, our hearts would fairly burst with joy. (Saint Jane’s advice to her daughters on prayer)
There, on the altar is God. There is Christ! Let your heart burst with joy! Do you want to live, to receive true life? There is life. It is the full presence of our Lord, not present symbolically, but mysteriously and really present, the totality of His being. St Paul tells us that,
“if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Roman 8:10)
How else can Christ be more in us than when we receive Him in the Eucharist? How else can we be righteous if Christ’s righteousness does not physically inhabit us? How can joy come into intimate contact with us except through the Eucharist? This is not spiritual hocus pocus. It is not some complex theological doctrine. It is simple. God enters us and restores us to life. Jesus tells us,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:53–54)
I know that we like to live in the world of, “I am OK, you are OK.” But we are not OK without Baptism, without the blessed Trinity filling us with life. When we sin, we are not OK without receiving Christ’s forgiveness and healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and His life, in the Eucharist. This is a reality! The Eucharist is not some symbol. Symbols do not save. It is not some quaint theatrical reenactment. Theater does not save. The Eucharist is Christ poured into us. It is not something we deserve. It is true gift. It is grace! The Eucharist saves.
The Lord tells the disciples in the Gospel reading tonight, “this is my body.” The word used for “body” in the original Greek is “soma”. It means the totality of one’s being. The Lord offers the totality of who He is to us in the Eucharist. He offers the totality of His resurrected self, His Body and Blood with all His Soul and Divinity. He enters us such that, until sin divides us again from Him, we are alive again, because He lives in us.
When we comprehend the mystery of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, it becomes, rightly, the very focus and center of our worship in the sanctuary and here on the altar. The Blessed Sacrament becomes the very center of our lives, and we like a flower draw nourishment from the presence of the Son. Bask this evening in the Lord’s presence among us. Let the eyes of your soul realize that God is, right now, present among us.
Our Patron, St Francis DeSales writes,
Wherein you perceive … the Presence of the Beloved through the sweetness He brings … [which] draws with all its force and a most willing compliance to Him who binds hearts to Himself just as men bind the body with cords… the mere Presence of God, or sense thereof, causes all the faculties to collect themselves in adoration of that Divine Majesty, for which love rouses a venerating awe. (Taken from St Francis DeSales “Of the Love of God” VII)
III. There is No Place I Would Rather Be
Several years ago, I was at a Catholic Heart Work Camp with about 500 teenagers. After a long day’s work on the third night, everyone was asked to spend a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. The teens all dutifully filed in and for an hour prayed with sacred music playing in the background. At the end of the hour, it was announced that anyone who wished to remain in prayer could, but that for anyone else there was a dance party and refreshments available. As you can imagine, about 450 of the teens and adult chaperones began to get up and leave quietly.
As people were leaving, one young girl began to approach the altar beautifully singing, ”there is no place I would rather be than here with you Lord.” Her voice was haunting, and Her song was slowly taken up by 30, then 40, then 100, then 200 until the whole group turned and came back to the altar. There was no place they would rather be than with the Lord. In the Spirit, she opened the eyes of all present that night. Spiritually blind no more, He was their joy. He is our joy tonight. He is the one who loves us enough to pour himself into us so that we can live in Him. Tonight, and whenever you get the chance.
“Let Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament speak to your hearts. It is he who is the true answer of life that you seek. He stays here with us: he is God with us. Seek him without tiring, welcome him without reserve, love him without interruption: today, tomorrow, forever." (St John Paul II)
There is no place, I would rather be than here with You Lord.
De Chantal, Jane Frances. A Simple Life: Wisdom from Jane Frances de Chantal. Ed. Kathryn Hermes. Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, 2011. Print. Classic Wisdom Collection.
Fong, Fr Luke. “Adoration of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament.” Adoration of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament, https://frlukefong.blogspot.com/2012/10/adoration-of-exposed-blessed-sacrament.html.
Francis de Sales. Of the Love of God. Trans. H. L. Sidney Lear. London: Rivingtons, 1888. Print.
Beautiful article, Deacon Mueller! I was especially delighted to see a quote from my patroness! It seems that few people sadly know about her, so I was very happy to see her and St. Francis de Sales quoted in this beautiful reflection. May God bless you and have a blessed Holy Week!
That story gave me chills - a soul so connected to her Father that it pulls others into Him. Like gravity. Just wow.