Monday, June 3, 2013

Why Would Jesus Be in a Piece of Bread?

Yesterday for the first time ever, Pope Francis called for a united worldwide hour of prayer at 5-6 PM, Rome time.  It was to be an hour of prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, praying that God would help those in need in the world, and that we might be His instruments.  It was a very public reflection of this pope’s priorities.
But that is not to say that there are not other important things to pray for, and to do.
I could not attend any of the local prayer services, for in the midst of them is when I was to be at mom’s, to care for her.  THAT is my priority.  And so I entered the small chapel near mom’s house at the start of the hour, joining a couple of women already there, to join with those around the world, praying as one.  Shortly after I arrived, another woman arrived at the small chapel, and she appeared confused.
“Where is the host?” she asked, pointing at the front of the small chapel.  We explained to her that this small chapel has hours of adoration in which the host is visible in its special container, a monstrance, only during weekdays, when individuals sign up for times to be present 24/7, so that someone is always in adoration before Jesus in the Eucharist.  “Oh,” she said.  “I thought the host would be here so we could pray with the pope.”  We pointed to the center of the chapel and the large golden container, the tabernacle, on the altar.  “Jesus is present there in the consecrated hosts contained in that tabernacle.  The sign of his presence there is indicated by that red candle next to the tabernacle. He IS present, and so we ARE praying to Him here, in union with the pope.”  “Oh,” she said again. 
And then she got up and left.
We continued to pray silently after she had left, but my mind was distracted.  “Oh ye of little faith,” I wanted to say aloud.  But what purpose would that had served, except to vent some frustration I was feeling?  And so I prayed silently for a few more minutes until it was time for me to go to care for mom.
But this morning, thoughts came back to me of the incident, along with some “I wish I would have said that” words.  My considered thoughts, my response to the confused woman, would have been in the form of an analogy.  I would have suggested to her that Jesus’ presence in the host reserved in the tabernacle versus the host displayed in the monstrance is not unlike a presidential candidate’s presence, at a large public rally versus him present at a small intimate luncheon.
At the public presidential rally:
·         You can hear the candidate, if you listen closely.   
·         You may not understand the words he speaks; they may be truths based on bigger issues or confidential data which you don’t have access to or understand, and
·         You can communicate to him, perhaps call out or submit written questions, but you don’t know if he is listening.

At the private luncheon, those things are clearer, in part because both you and he are more closely focused on each other, and you can see each other.  With the added personal time, you can understand each other better, can exchange thoughts or questions --- but you still may not understand the truths of all he says, for the reasons noted.  But at either the public gathering or the private one, there are some additional key points that impact the communication between both of you, and of its importance to you personally.

Communication depends on trust:
·         His words may be lies, and so you will have to decide what is going on behind his nice smile and pleasant words.  Is he being truthful on those things you can’t verify, especially on the actions which he says he will do?
·         You are just one among many to him; how much you can trust him may depend (a little) on how important he sees you to his campaign:  are you just another voter, or are you a potential big-time donor?
·         He doesn’t love you.  At best, there is some political or perhaps business relationship between you.  He doesn’t value you for any other reason, or care about you, nor your needs and wants.

If we replace the presidential candidate with Jesus in this analogy, you can see that the similar difference between Jesus in the tabernacle at the front of any Catholic Church (where one or thousands may gather in front of Him) and Jesus in the Host displayed in the Monstrance for ongoing Eucharistic Adoration (where 1 or 2 people are present at all times, 24/7, in adoration).  The points about communication apply equally regardless of how Jesus’ presence is displayed, hidden or open, but the point about the personal, one-to-one, communication applies especially to the visible host on display.  I’m sure the Apostle Thomas believed that Jesus was God, but still when his most trusted friends, the other apostles, said Jesus was alive and appeared to them, he said “I have to see this to believe.”  This is a common human condition:  tangible things we can see right in front of us are more easily believed.  There are still some people who refuse to believe that man walked on the moon or that the Holocaust really happened, because they only saw it on television or read about it.  It is such a strange thing to them that they can’t believe unless they see, right in front of them, the men in space suits walking, or the people in the ovens burning and screaming.
But this matter of communication, real communication and understanding, is much more than just seeing things with our eyes.  Remember the other point above: that communication depends on trust.  There are some things which cannot be seen:  truth, friendship, love.  Much of communication depends on trust, or Faith.  We usually think of the word “faith” in reference to things of God, but you can see that faith also applies to everyday relationships and communications.  By accepting the words of many people, we are expressing a faith in those people, believing them despite the fact that we can’t see the action of their words with our eyes ---- although perhaps our faith may had some basis in the past actions of those people which we DID see. 
But isn’t that how our faith in God exists also?  A voice speaking from the sky is one thing (“maybe it was just thunder”), but miracles and a physical presence are another.  And aren’t miracles and the historical undisputed physical presence of Jesus enough to permit us to have at least some faith in Him and His promises?  He promised He would be with us always.  He said: “Do this in memory of me.”  The Catholic Church has always believed in His presence in the bread and wine, his real presence.  And the hundreds of Eucharistic miracles over the years further give evidence of His presence there.  So why do so many, even Catholics, seem to find it hard to accept that Jesus is present in the host?  “Why would Jesus be present in a piece of bread?” they ask.  Books have been written about the logic of it, but at the bottom line, it’s because He said so.  And I believe Him.  He is not a politician; He’s someone who has demonstrated how much He loves me. And so I have faith in Him.
I understand the woman who couldn’t accept that the host was present in the small tabernacle because she couldn’t see it more than I do those who see it and still don’t believe.
But, then again, I at one point was one of those people.  Raised Catholic, taught and accepted the “Real Presence” of Jesus, saw the host so often raised at mass and adored at Benediction services and Holy Hours, and prayed to often in front of the monstrance, yet I still never really confronted my lack of REAL faith.  I needed a miracle to believe; perhaps we all do. 
Faith is a gift.  Isn’t that a miracle?  It was for me.  But perhaps most importantly, for our communication with God, for our trust in Him, so that we can understand the truth He wishes to convey to us, and so that we can FEEL the Love He has for us:  shouldn’t we pray for faith?  My earlier life, when God was “sorta out there,” and when God was thought about “a little bit” on Sundays, was not nearly as fulfilled as it is now, when I know that He is present, and that HE LOVES ME.  We now communicate well.  It makes my life worth living.
All my life I have known how important I am to me, now I know how important I am to God.
My Jesus, I trust in You.
Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.  

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