THE HOLY EUCHARIST
"I am a sojourner on the earth."Ps. cxviii. 19.
SYNOPSIS.This earth not our true home. Our consolation the fact that Our Lord dwells among us. We possess Him in both His divine and human nature. He is even nearer to us than He was to the first Christians. Let us consider:
I. The great mercy of God manifested in the Holy Eucharist.
II. Our duties toward this great Sacrament.
I. The presence of God the happiness of the just and the unhappiness of the sinner. Adam. Cain. The omnipresence of God a great benefit. King David. The Holy Eucharist one of the three great mysteries, the other two being the Incarnation and the Passion. In creation we see the power, the wisdom, the providence of God; in the Holy Eucharist His infinite love.
II. What must we do to repay this love? Reverence in His presence. In sacramental processions. Gratitude for benefits received, reparation for insults offered to Him. The two disciples knew Him not, yet they burned with love for Him. How great ought to be our love who know Him present! Consider the time before the Blessed Sacrament as the happiest of your life, for there you obtain forgiveness and the grace of perseverance.
These words, dear brethren, point out to us the utter misery of this life, the contempt which we should feel for created and transitory things, and the longing we should be possessed of to be delivered from them, so that we may enter into our true home, which is not of this world. Meanwhile let us console ourselves, dear brethren, because we possess here among us a God, a Friend, a Consoler, and a Redeemer, who will ease our sufferings, who promises us in this place of hardships such great bliss that, with the bride in the canticle, we may exclaim: "Hast thou seen my Beloved, and when you see him, tell him that I languish with love." "How long, O Lord," exclaimed the holy king and prophet in his exceeding love and ecstasy, "how long must I still remain in this banishment and separation from Thee?" And see, dear brethren, how much happier we are than the saints of the Old Testament, we who not only possess Him in the immensity of divinity, but who have Him also as He was during the nine months in Mary's womb, and again as he was on the cross. More fortunate than the first Christians, who had to go fifty or sixty miles for the happiness of seeing Him: the church of every parish contains Him; any congregation can, if it so desires, enjoy His most sweet companionship. O happy people, what I wish to show you today is:
I. How good God was in instituting the adorable Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
II. What are our duties toward this Sacrament?
The very thing that constitutes the happiness of the just Christian causes, in my opinion, the unhappiness of the sinner. If you desire a proof of this, I will give you one: To a sinner who will not forsake his vices, the presence of God is a torture: he shuns the thought that God sees him, he hides himself and his evil deeds, he flees the light of day, he buries himself in darkness, he is suspicious of everything, the sight of a priest arouses his distrust, he fears and avoids it, and when after all he reflects that his soul is immortal, that there is a God to either reward or punish his deeds, then this thought tortures him, it gnaws at him unceasingly. Ah, sad indeed is the life of a sinner who lives on in his sins! It is in vain, my friend, that you strive to hide yourself from God's presence. You can never do it! "Adam, Adam, where art thou?" "Ah, Lord," he answered, "I have sinned, and I fear Thy presence!" Adam trembled in every limb, and he fled, that he might hide himself, and at the very moment when he thought that God did not see him he heard His voice: "Adam, thou wilt find me everywhere; thou hast sinned, and I was a witness of thy transgression, and my eyes were turned upon thee." "Cain, Cain, where is thy brother?" Cain heard the Lord's voice, and he fled like one in despair. But God followed him, and accused him with the words: "Cain, thy brother's blood cries for vengeance." Oh how true it is, that a sinner finds himself in continual fear and despair!
"Come, my children," says the holy King David, "I have something important to reveal to you: come and I will tell thee how good the Lord is to those that love Him. He has prepared a heavenly repast for His children, which bears fruit for this life. In every place we find our God: if we enter heaven, He is there; if we traverse the ocean, He is by our side; if we go down into the depths of the sea, He accompanies us." Our God no more loses sight of us than does a mother of her child that is beginning to walk. "My God," cried Moses, "show me, if it pleases Thee, Thy countenance, then shall I possess all things that I want." Ah, how consoling for a Christian is the blessed thought that God sees him, that God witnesses his sorrows and his troubles, that God is by his side! Ah, what is still better, that God presses him tenderly to His heart! O Christian people, how happy are you in the enjoyment of so many privileges which others have not! Am I not right when I say that the presence of God, which is such a torment for the sinner, is an endless happiness for the good Christianit is heaven upon earth.
St. Bernard assures us that there are three mysteries upon which he can not meditate without feeling as if his heart would break with love and sadness. The first is the mystery of the Incarnation, the other that of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, and the third is the most adorable Sacrament of the Altar. When the Holy Ghost speaks to us of the mystery of the Incarnation, He makes use of expressions which denote the magnitude of the love of God for men as boundless, for He says, "God has so loved the world," as if he would say, I will leave it to your imagination what love this is.
Listen how St. Paul expresses himself, in speaking of the mystery of the Passion of Jesus Christ: "God is infinite in His mercy and grace; but He appears to have exhausted Himself in His love toward us. We were dead, He has given us life. We were destined to be miserable for all eternity, and by His kindness and mercy He has changed our lot." Finally St. John says, in speaking of the love shown by Jesus Christ in the institution of the Holy Eucharist, "He has loved us unto the end"; that is to say, He has loved man during His entire life with a love that has no equal. Let us say, rather, that He loved us as much as He could love us. O divine love, how great art thou, and how little known!
Yes, dear brethren, when we contemplate all the things which God has made, heaven and earth and the beautiful order that reigns throughout creation, then everything proclaims to us an Almighty power which has created all things, a wonderful wisdom which rules over everything, a perfection in the highest degree which cares for everything with the same ease as if it had only one creature to occupy itself with; so the many wonders can only fill us with astonishment and admiration. But when we speak of the Most Holy Eucharist we can say that here is to be found the miracle of divine love for us, here His majesty, His grace, and His goodness shines forth in a most extraordinary manner. We can say truly that here is that bread which came down from heaven, the Bread of Angels, that is given to us for the nourishment of our souls. It is the bread of the strong, which consoles and lightens our sufferings. There is truly the subsistence of the traveler. "Whosoever," says the Saviour," receives me, will possess everlasting life, and he who does not receive me, will die." "Those," said the Lord, "who take refuge in this sacred banquet, will awaken a source within them that will spring up into eternal life."
Has there been, or will there ever be, a nobler or more magnanimous love than that which He has shown us in the Sacrament of love? Must we not say, with the Council of Trent, that His generosity and His magnanimity have here exhausted all His treasures? Is there anything on earth or in heaven which can be compared to it? Has the tender love of a father or the liberality of a king toward his subjects ever reached as far as the love of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist? Parents will their possessions to their children, but Jesus Christ gives us in His testament not temporal goods, but He bequeaths to us His most adorable body and His most precious blood. O, the good fortune of the Christian, how little it is appreciated! No, dear brethren, His love could have done no more than to give Himself to us; for when we receive Him, we receive Him with all His riches. Is this not really prodigality on the part of God to His creatures? Had God, dear brethren, left us free to ask of Him what we wanted, do you think we should have dared to place our hopes so high? "On the other hand," asks St. Augustine, "could God have been able to give us anything more precious than what He has given us?" Do you know, dear brethren, what induced Jesus Christ to condescend to be present in our churches by day and night? It was that we might be able to come to Him whenever we wanted to. O tender love of a Father, how great art thou! What, dear brethren, is more consoling for a Christian than to feel he adores a God who is really and truly present in body and soul. "O Lord, exclaimed the royal prophet, "a day passed in Thy presence is better than a thousand spent with worldly company!" What is it that makes our churches so sacred and so venerable? Is it not the presence of Jesus Christ? What an immense privilege we Christians enjoy!
But, you will ask, what must we do to repay this love?
1. We must appear before Him with the greatest reverence, and when taking part in sacramental processions we should awaken within us the most profound respect, remembering that we are sinners and unworthy to accompany so holy and so pure a God. We have so often despised and offended this good Father, and yet He loves us, and promises us that He is ever ready to grant us His grace. What does Jesus Christ represent, dear brethren, when He is carried around the church in the procession? He is like a good and gracious king in the midst of His subjects, a kind father surrounded by His children, and a good shepherd gathering His sheep. What thoughts should fill our minds when we walk with our God? We should follow Him as the first Christians followed Him when He walked upon this earth and lavished His benefits upon the whole world. If we are so happy as to accompany Him with a lively faith, we are sure of obtaining all that we ask of Him. Do we not read in the Gospel that two blind men were seated by the roadside as Jesus passed by, and as they cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us!" He was touched with compassion, and He asked them what they desired. "Ah, Lord," they said, "grant that we may see!" And our Saviour gave them their sight.
We appreciate our God very little, we regard Him with indifference, the time passes slowly for us in His presence. Oh what a difference there is between us and the first Christians! They. would have considered it the most blissful time of their life could they have spent days and nights in church, to sing the praises of the Lord or to weep over their sins; but nowadays it is very different. As a matter of fact, dear brethren, what indifference and even frivolity do we not often see in our churches.
2. As we are all created for God, and are unceasingly the recipients of His boundless mercy, we must prove our gratitude to Him, and be sorrowful when we observe how much He is subject to insults. We should behave like a friend who regrets the misfortune of a friend: this is a proof of sincere friendship. Whatever service a friend may render you, he can never do what Christ has done for us. Every good Christian must be grieved at the contempt which is so often shown Him, and must strive to make reparation to Him; and those Christians who have the good fortune of belonging to societies having for their object the adoration of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, they are in an especial manner bound to do this. I say those "who have the good fortune," for can there be a greater happiness than to undertake reparation to Jesus Christ for the insults which are offered to Him in the Sacrament of His love?
We read in the Gospel that two of the disciples walked with our Saviour from Emmaus without knowing Him; when they recognized Him, He vanished. Beside themselves with happiness they said to one another: "How did it happen that we have not recognized Him? Were not our hearts burning within us whilst He was speaking on the way and opened to us the Scriptures?" We, my dear brethren, are a thousand times better off than those disciples who walked with Jesus without knowing Him. We know that our God and our Redeemer is really present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and that He speaks to our hearts, and awakens good thoughts and good resolutions within us. "My child," He says, "why dost thou not love me? Why not give up this abominable sin which raises a barrier between us? Ah, my child, canst thou forsake me? Wilt thou force me to condemn thee to eternal punishment? Behold, my child, I will forgive thee thy transgressions if thou wilt repent of them!"
Oh how sweet it is, dear brethren, to enjoy the blessed conversation of the Redeemer!
Had you been so happy to taste this sweetness you would never leave Him any more. We need not be surprised that so many souls passed their lives, day and night, in His housethey could not tear themselves away from His presence. What conclusion, then, must we arrive at? We should consider those moments spent before the Blessed Sacrament as the happiest of our lives. Let us, sinners as we are, pray with tears and sorrow for the forgiveness of our sins and we shall certainly obtain it, and when we are forgiven, let us implore the most precious gift of perseverance. Let us say to Him in all earnestness that we would rather die than offend Him again! No, dear brethren, as long as you do not love God you will never be contentedeverything will be a trouble to you, everything will weary you; but if you love God you will lead a happy life and be well prepared for death! A happy death, which will unite us to our God! O happiness, when wilt thou come? How long the time is! Ah, come, for thou procurest for us the greatest of all good, namely, the possession of God Himself. That is what I desire for you and for me. Amen.