Before Our Lord began his public ministry, the majority of his life was lived hidden with God doing ordinary things: working, studying, praying, and having fun with His family and friends. This is where the life of sanctity begins. We need to be more faithful in answering the call to holiness by drawing closer to the Eucharistic Heart of Christ. Ultimately, we need to allow our love for the Lord in the Eucharist transform how we work, how we live, and how we love others.
To our peril, we underestimate the necessity of prayer if we are ever to see victory in the battle for life and family. And Catholics in particular are given a grace-filled opportunity that we too often overlook. St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) a French priest (Blessed Pope John XXIII referred to him as the “priest of the Eucharist”) directs the faithful to increase their prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Given the present state of affairs, it becomes clearer all the time that we will be victorious only to the degree that the people of God place their faith and trust in the Eucharistic King.
In a work that could as easily have been written today, St. Julian argues that renewal of our faith in the Holy Eucharist is the “need of our times. There must be this public and solemn proclamation of the people’s faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ and in the truth of his sacramental presence.” For St. Julian, renewal of Eucharistic devotion is “necessary to reawaken the faith of so many honest people who do not know Jesus Christ anymore because they do not know that he is their neighbor, their friend, and their God…It is necessary to save society. Society is dying because it has no center of truth and charity – no more the life of the family.” Through the gift of His Real Presence, Our Lord teaches us to live for others in love.
Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist when He said: “This is my Body given for you.” Our current culture encourages us to embrace life with these words: “This is my Body, to do with as I please.” Christ directs us to live for others, whereas our culture would have us focus our attention on ourselves.
According to St. Julian’s saintly wisdom, our culture needs to return to the Eucharist as the “center of truth and charity” because modern society encourages each person to be “isolated, turned inward, self-sufficient…But society will be reborn full of vigor when all its members come to be reunited around our Emmanuel.”
During these last days of Advent, the Church focuses on the imminent coming of Emmanuel. Advent focuses on three ways in which Christ comes to the world: We look to the past as we celebrate Christ coming as an infant child in the manger; we look to the future as we await His glorious second coming, and we look to the present as Christ comes to us again and again in our midst through the celebration of the Eucharist and His abiding Presence in the tabernacle. Christ is truly Emmanuel – “God with us.”
The Eucharistic Presence of Christ helps us to live in joyful and hopeful expectation. When we direct our gaze towards Our Lord in love we will receive the grace to love our neighbor. As society continues to lose sight of its true center, Christians have an even greater obligation to redirect their friends and family members to Christ in the Eucharist by their words and deeds.
This has been a persistent theme for Pope Benedict XVI, especially his emphasis on the unity between worship and everyday life – that is, how Christians lives should be directed by their Eucharistic worship. There can be no separation between our love of God and love of neighbor. To love God, one must love one’s neighbor and vice versa. According to the Holy Father, the saints (particularly Blessed Teresa of Calcutta), “constantly renewed their capacity of love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others” (Deus Caritas Est, 18).
For many of us, the focus has recently been on politics, when what we truly need is to refocus our energies in responding more faithfully to the Lord in prayer and adoration. This does not mean the faithful, especially the laity, should neglect their duty to sanctify the world through their participation in politics; but our action should be informed by prayerful contemplation, lest we lose sight of our ultimate end.
Again, St. Julian reminds us: “Return to the source of life: not merely to Jesus of history in Judea or to Jesus glorified in heaven, but to Jesus in the Eucharist. He must not long be neglected but placed again at the head of Christian society, which he will direct and save…He must have faithful servants, a family of friends, an adoring people.” The efforts on behalf of life, love, and the family will be successful only to the degree that they are rooted in prayer before and in the Eucharistic Heart of Christ. In Christ’s own words: “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Relying upon human efforts alone is insufficient to meet the great challenges of our time.
In every Mass, we are privileged to witness Christ’s miraculous coming into the world like the Shepherds on Christmas night that adored the Christ Child in Bethlehem.
The encounter with Christ in the Liturgy of the Eucharist assists us to see Our Lord in the midst of the least of our brothers and sisters. Catherine De Hueck, the founder of the Madonna House apostolate, writes “In the liturgy we learn to know Christ. And if we truly know Him, we shall recognize Him everywhere, but especially in His poor, and we shall set our faces toward liberation of Him from the yoke of injustice and pain.”
These final days of Advent provide an opportunity to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Christmas by encountering Christ in the Blessed Sacrament at Mass and adoration. We need to rediscover the integral relationship between our love for Christ in the Eucharist and our love for our neighbor. Praying before Christ in the Eucharist, gives us the grace to truly seek the renewal of our culture. Come, Let us adore Him.