Through my work, I recently had the opportunity to celebrate Pentecost at a Venerable Patrick Peyton Anniversary Mass in Easton, MA. There were hundreds of families present, from many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. One of the readings was proclaimed in Spanish, and the Prayers of the Faithful were offered in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Malayalam — an appropriate assortment of languages, I thought, for a Pentecost celebration.
After receiving Communion at this special event, I watched as hundreds of others proceeded forward to also receive. Some wore head scarves, saris, and other traditional garb, and many came forward with multiple children in tow. A young woman in a wheelchair was pushed toward the priest for a blessing, and an elderly woman struggled to kneel on the hard tile floor before receiving Communion.
As I watched the crowds pass by, I was struck by the contrast between what we human beings often see as differences and divisions among us, and the unchanging sameness of a God who humbly comes to each of us in the Eucharist. The same God comes to the elderly woman in the sari and the young investment banker in the suit. The same God comes to the 8-year-old boy in a Nike tee shirt and the giggling gang of teen girls in line behind him. The same God comes to each of us. God’s intimate and deeply personal love for each of us is timeless, eternal, and unchanging.
The Feast of Corpus Christi is an opportunity to reflect on the great gift we have as Catholics — Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. The power and weight of this great gift was not lost on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, even before she became a Catholic herself.
She once wrote to her sister-in-law, after observing Catholics and the sacrament of the Eucharist: “How happy we would be if we believed what these dear souls believe: that they possess God the Sacrament, and that he remains in their churches and is with them when they are sick! … The other day, in a moment of excessive distress, I fell on my knees without thinking when the Blessed sacrament passed by, and cried in an agony to God to bless me, if He was there – that my whole soul desired only Him.”
St. Elizabeth Ann fell on her knees before Christ in the Eucharist, even before she was Catholic. And yet how do we, even those of us who say we are believers, approach Jesus in the Eucharist? Unthinkingly, and without proper preparation? With great distraction? How many of us fail to fall on our knees, even spiritually speaking, when in the real presence of our God and King?
When life is hard, it can be tempting sometimes to think that God does not care about us, at least not in any kind of personal or intimate way. But we need look no further than the nearest crucifix to see that this is not so. There hangs our God, bleeding and dying, pouring out all for the love of each of us. Not for humanity in some kind of general way, but for each of us personally, deeply, without limits and without ceasing.
This is the all-giving, all-loving God we meet in the Eucharist. He is present and dwells among us even today. He is present in our churches and in our tabernacles, monstrances, Eucharistic processions, and in whatever Communion line you might find yourself in next Sunday.
I’ll never forget the time years ago when our parish held Mass in the gymnasium while our church was being renovated. There, under basketball hoops and yellow lighting, with humming clocks on the walls and bleachers surrounding us, we received Jesus, the gift of the Eucharist. Jesus came to dwell among us in that humble, uninspired place. He comes to battlefields and hospital beds. He comes to tiny chapels and great cathedrals. All for the love of us.
Jesus comes to us, no matter who we are or where we are. He comes to fill our hearts with his grace and love. He comes to heal us where we wounded, fix us where we are broken, and strengthen us where we are weak. He gives us the gift of nothing less than himself.
May we never take for granted that great gift. Instead, may we imitate the zeal of Mother Seton, a believer in the Eucharist even before she was fully received into the Church. This Corpus Christi, let us keep her words in our hearts and minds as we approach the altar to receive the great gift of God himself:
“At last God is mine and I am his!” St. Elizabeth wrote after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time. “Now, let all go its round — I have received Him.”
Nothing less than the gift of God himself, poured into our undeserving hearts. Let all go its round; we have received Him.
DANIELLE BEAN is the brand manager for CatholicMom.com and former publisher and editor-in-chief of Catholic Digest. Danielle is author of several books for women including Momnipotent,You’re Worth It! and her newest book, You Are Enough. She is also creator and host of the Girlfriends podcast and a popular speaker on a variety of subjects related to Catholic family life, parenting, marriage, and the spirituality of motherhood. Learn more at DanielleBean.com.
Image: Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, by Raphael, 1509-1510.