By Father Danny Ferrandiz
For the Umatuna Si Yu’os
Mother Teresa’s religious congregation of sisters known as the Missionaries of Charity is known for its benevolent and selfless mission and love for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. Mother Teresa and her sisters were seen either feeding or nursing the crippled and cleansing the wounds of people afflicted with leprosy. Most often, people would take their photographs but seldom would you see them coming near the afflicted because the smell of the disease is unbearable.
A story is told that one day Mother Teresa took in a woman off the streets of Calcutta. Her body was covered with sores. She patiently bathed her and carefully tended to her wounds. The woman was very uncooperative and angry for taking her to the sister’s convent. She constantly berated and hurled curses to Mother Teresa. But the good nun simply returned her mean attitude with kindness and a smile. Finally, the woman calmed down and said, “Sister, why are you doing this? You’re very different from others I met in the streets. Who taught you to behave like that?”
Mother Teresa replied, “My God taught me.” Then Mother Teresa kissed her on the forehead and said, “You know my God. My God is called Jesus, and he is love.”
Mother Teresa has many stories like that. And these encounters were the result of her long hours of spending time with Jesus in the holy Eucharist. Her closeness to Jesus and his presence is the source of her strength, perseverance, joy, and love.
As Mother Teresa herself puts it, “The Mass is the spiritual food that sustains me – without which I could not get through one single day or hour in my life.”
Like Mother Teresa, all of us who come to Mass either daily or Sunday have felt the same. For many of us, our Sunday would not be complete without going to Mass, and that is a good feeling because consciously or unconsciously it shows that we need that connection through the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, a sort of intrinsic bond that holds all believers of the faith as one.
My wish is for us to always become conscious of this wonderful gift of his presence to us at holy Communion. That we put more faith in the body of Jesus that we receive more than the effect of the medicines we take in our body. If we have headaches, we take Advil and we expect something good to happen to us. Why can’t we do the same with the holy Eucharist? Why can’t we believe that something good can happen to our souls, too, if we received the body and Blood of Jesus? How many of us really believe that the Eucharist has a transformative effect or a healing power?
How many of us see that in liturgy Jesus himself is ministering to us? That our participation is not only to sit, stand, kneel, or say “Amen,” but rather a participation that by hearing and listening to the word proclaimed and having received Jesus sacramentally, our lives can be changed and we see the world in a different light. How many of us have been changed by that encounter?
Sadly, it seems that the expectation is low. Partly, we priests can be blamed for this, for our neglect perhaps to make people understand the true value of the holy Eucharist. But the blame can’t be pointed towards the priests or religious leaders alone. The faithful can also be blamed for withholding that faith in Jesus for fear of the demands that it will cost them – the cost of change in the way they live their lives if they truly heed the call of Jesus to follow him – that’s the biggest block! The total surrender to the will of God.
The Eucharist gives us hope. Just as physical food gives energy to the body, the body and blood of Christ gives hope to our souls. When our souls need hope we feed it with the promises of Jesus. These promises give us hope in our future with God. Our past does not give us hope; our future does. We can learn and be grateful from our past, but we cannot hope. However, if our future is promising, our souls can be hopeful even if we are in a difficult situation because that hope keeps our souls going.
At holy Communion, we eat “not only Jesus but also his promises” and our souls digest (believes) and converts them into hope. What is this hope? To live with Christ forever. The lyrics of the song “gather the people” says it all: “Around the table new hope is born, the flame of faith in our hearts; we find our courage in Christ the Lord, ‘til we become what we eat.”
This is what Jesus expects from us – that by frequent reception of the sacrament, we become like him and live with him forever. Jesus calls himself the bread of life. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread shall live forever” (Jn 6:51). To receive Jesus is to receive also his promise of eternal life. So, let’s C-R-A-V-E for Jesus in the Eucharist – Commune, Reconcile, Attune and Value the promise of Eternity.