Like many, I mostly focus on the present and the future. Our busy and hectic lives make us focus on today. Worries and anxieties about the future fill our thoughts. We usually need something to trigger us to reflect on events of the past. A photograph, a place, a comment suddenly causes us to relive and reflect on past unmerited gifts of grace from our loving God.
Recently a St. Charles Borromeo Seminary classmate of eight years reminded me of something I said more than 20 years ago at my Mass of Thanksgiving on the day following my Ordination to the Priesthood.
Before the Final Blessing, I expressed my thanks to all the people who nurtured my vocation to the Priesthood: my parents, my sister and brothers, my family and friends, my teachers, and priests, deacons, and religious.
Finally, I thanked the most important persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Allow me to paraphrase what I said:
“Up to the day of my Ordination to the Priesthood, I had the humble privilege of receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Priests had lovingly placed Jesus into my hands so that I could be nourished by His Real Presence.
“For some inexplicable and unfathomable reason, Jesus has called me to be one of His Priests. He has given me the unmerited gift to make His life, love and mercy really present to others.
“I am now called to pick up the bread with my own hands and say the words of consecration, so it becomes the Body of Christ. I am now called to pick up the chalice filled with wine and say the words of consecration, so it becomes the Blood of Christ. I am now called to make Him Really Present to others so they can be nourished by His Body and Blood.
“I am humbled by this mysterious, wonderful, and undeserved gift of grace.”
Our diocesan Holy Year of the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist has called all of us – laity, ordained ministers and consecrated religious – to reflect on our first reception of the Most Holy Eucharist. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, in her autobiography, “Story of a Soul,” expressed what that intimate encounter of love meant to her:
“At last the most wonderful day of my life arrived…. How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart – it was truly a kiss of love. I knew that I was loved, and I responded, ‘I love You, and I give myself to You forever.”’
While our first reception of Holy Communion certainly has an enormous impact on our spiritual life, we are constantly invited to come back to the eucharistic table to be renewed by the love and mercy of Christ. In the Eucharist Jesus feeds us with the Living Bread that brings the forgiveness and new life He won for us by His sacrifice on the Cross.
Jesus promised us that He would abide with us to the end of time. While He fulfills this promise in many ways, the pinnacle fulfillment is His Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.
In the Eucharist Jesus is truly present with all His life, love, and mercy. His Paschal Mystery – His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension – is not simply recalled, it is really present to us.
With each reception of Holy Communion, may we echo St. Thérèse words to Jesus: I know in my heart that I am loved, and I love You in return.
By Father Jerome Tauber, Chaplain of St. Luke’s Hospital – Bethlehem Campus.