Eucharistic Amazement Leads to Joy
Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S.
The Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft maintains that human beings simply cannot live without truth, goodness and joy. Why is this so? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If our lives are not firmly rooted in the Lord, we can lose our spiritual compass. Since we are created by God to love and be loved, we search after love. We may settle for a weak imitation of God’s love. Life can become a burden, not joy.
The goodness of God begets hope in our hearts. This enables us to choose rightly to walk and reject the waywardness of the world. The virtue of hope is a powerful catalyst to propel us toward the goal of our heavenly reward. Without hope, there is discouragement and deception. Joy can be quickly extinguished. The goodness of God is a fountain of grace freely given. God always tends toward joy, purity and freedom of heart. Kreeft observes that Catholics are sorely lacking in joy. While truth and goodness have grown in the Church, joy has ceased to grow as steadily.
John Paul II’s program to rekindle Eucharistic amazement aims to draw people back into the Church. At Mass today, the priest homilist shared that twenty million Catholics have “fallen away” from the Church. He said that priests are observing that Catholics are coming to church as little as three times during their lifetime: Baptism, marriage, and their funeral.
As we renew Eucharistic piety, conversion will occur; our sadness, discouragement and doubt will assuredly turn into authentic joy. The Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament contain the amazing power to transform our lives, individually and collectively. If we persist in being Catholics without the joy of the Lord, people will not be drawn to Christ. John Paul II’s program for renewing devotion to the Eucharist is a program that will attract people back to Christ-centered living.
When the believer prays and assumes the posture of Mary’s receptivity, the Holy Spirit brings forth spiritual union; Creator and creature unite in joyful love. In order to be a Church that is alive, in order to experience a new Pentecost, we need experiential knowledge of the love of God. The Mass (communal worship) and adoration (personal prayer) facilitate our encounter with God. His love, which the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts, must be stirred up and fanned into flame! Then zeal for God will be rekindled.
When we experience the Eucharist as a penetrating gift of God, the Holy Spirit enkindles love’s ardor within our hearts. Stony hearts will become hearts of flesh. We will become responsive to God who loves us first. We will come to new life through his Eucharistic species at Mass and Adoration. Whatever the measure of your love for God is presently, there is always more to receive from God.
To Bring the Church into the “Enthusiasm of the New Evangelization”
In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II presents necessary spiritual elements (deeper realization of the transforming power of the Eucharistic Presence) to bring the Church into the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. Have you noticed the whole world is a mission field? It seems that one and a half generations have need of catechesis about the good news of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is more relevant than ever in this challenging time of tumult.
Can we recognize a wake-up call? St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis are sounding a clarion call to wake up the soldiers of Christ! Rise up to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ because people are desperate for an experience of Jesus as divine love! Many false religions, cults, and disordered spiritualities are also rising up. People are in need of good news and are searching to fill a spiritual void. We are the people God is calling to lead souls back to the beauty and truth of the Gospel. The Eucharist is the means of renewing our faith in Jesus, and our love of his Bride. This can happen only as we are filled with the dynamism of the Spirit’s love.
Do we feel a tug of our conscience telling us that we have ceased to be amazed by the gift of God? Perhaps we are lethargic about the sacraments? The people of God are busy about many things in our respective vocations. We have only to read a weekly parish bulletin to see the numerous programs already in the Church.
Presently, we suffer under a yoke of busyness in the Church. There are plenty of Marthas (people busy about many things) and not enough Marys (people choosing to sit at the feet of the Master). Have we lost our vocation of prayer? John Paul II’s program for renewing the Eucharistic life of the Church is not a new program to be followed. It is a return to the heart of the Church: Love Personified.
John Paul II’s Eucharistic program is an invitation to experience God like Mary who chose the better part: to sit at the feet of the Master. The word “contemplation” is used several times throughout the encyclical. Rekindling Eucharistic amazement can only be realized through a mystical evolution; in contemplation of Christ we will find the way to go forward and rebuild the City of God in an increasingly atheistic world.
Christ’s Bride is to become a house of prayer for all peoples. Each disciple is invited to become an individual house of prayer. The whole Mystical Body will become revitalized through Eucharistic prayer. The early Church was “devoted” to the “breaking of the bread.” Life was centered on prayer; the Mass was celebrated in their homes in the early days of the Church. Not only were they devoted to prayer and the Eucharist; they had expectant faith that they would experience the Lord who is fully alive.
One of the fruits of contemplating the face of Christ is to draw so close to him that you begin to see yourself in the reflection of Christ’s eyes. When you perceive yourself in the light of Jesus’ eyes, you know your dignity as a precious child of God. You can only know this by a close encounter with Christ. This is a healing experience because it corrects any distorted perception of your true identity in Christ.
We are invited to hope in Christ instead of discouragement. The fruit of an intensely Eucharistic vocation is joy and peace, health for your soul. By rediscovering our sacramental character, true inner healing can be realized. The fruit of a life centered on the Mass and Adoration is health of body, mind and spirit.
Is It Necessary to Renew Our Love for The Eucharist?
To answer this question, consider what St. Faustina wrote in her diary:
Oh, how painful it is to me that souls so seldom unite themselves to me in Holy Communion. I wait for souls, and they are indifferent toward me. I love them tenderly and sincerely, and they distrust me. I want to lavish my graces on them, and they do not want to accept them. They treat me as a dead object, whereas my Heart is full of love and mercy. In order that you may know at least some of my pain, imagine the most tender of mothers who has great love for her children, while those children spurn her love. Consider her pain. No one is in a position to console her. This is but a feeble image and likeness of my love.1
This message indicates that we are indifferent toward him, that we treat him like a dead object. We need to experience further the Risen Lord who is alive. We need to experience the dynamism of the Holy Spirit in our lives every day. Otherwise we can languish in mediocrity. The crisis of faith seems to have developed into a crisis of love. We are starving for authentic agape love because our modern experience of love has become disordered. We need to experience falling in love with Christ all over again, to avoid boredom, weariness, dullness and lack of joy. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. refers to this:
Why are faith and religious practice in decline and why do they not constitute, at least not for most people, the point of reference in life?
Why the boredom, the weariness, the struggle for believers in performing their duties? Why do young people not feel attracted to the faith? In sum, why this dullness and this lack of joy among the believers in Christ? The event of Christ’s transfiguration helps us to answer these questions.
What did the transfiguration mean for the three disciples who were present? Up until now they knew Jesus only in his external appearance: He was not a man different from others; they knew where he came from, his habits, the timber of his voice. Now they know another Jesus, the true Jesus, the one who cannot be seen with the eyes of the ordinary life, in the normal light of the sun; what they now know of him is the fruit of a sudden revelation, of a change, of a gift.
Because things change for us too, as they changed for the three disciples on Tabor; something needs to happen in our lives similar to what happens when a young man and woman fall in love. In falling in love with someone, the beloved, who before was one of many, suddenly becomes the only one, the sole person in the world who interests us. Everything else is left behind and becomes a kind of neutral background...
Something of the kind must happen once in our lives for us to be true, convinced Christians, and overjoyed to be so. Some say, “But the young man or young woman is seen and touched!”
I answer: We see and touch Jesus too, but with different eyes and different hands - those of the heart, of faith. He is risen and is alive. He is a concrete being, not an abstraction, for those who experience and know him.
Indeed, with Jesus things go even better.2
Both St. John Paul II and Fr. Cantalamessa acknowledge our need to experience the dynamism of Christ’s love consistent with what took place in the Upper Room. The Cenacle in Jerusalem, the Upper Room, is a place of origin for the Church. Sometimes when things become obscured, we need to look again at God’s original initiative when instituting the Eucharist and Priesthood, and then receive the fullness of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (the birthday of the Church). Let us return to the Upper Room where three “births” occurred: Eucharist, Priesthood, and Pentecost.
Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S., is the Co-founder and President of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests. This reflection originally appeared in her book Rekindle Eucharistic Amazement: Healing and Holiness through the Mass and Holy Hour (Queenship Publishing, 2008).
1 Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul (Stockbridge: Marian Press, 1987), no. 1447.
2 Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.,Cap., “Falling in Love With Christ: Gospel Commentary for 2nd Sunday of Lent,” Zenit, February 15, 2008, accessed July 15, 2014, www.zenit.org/en/articles/falling-in-love-with-christ.