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Let Us Love God As We Ought And As He Deserves
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[What follows is a slightly modified version of a presentation I made to the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapter of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, September 8, 2018]
God loves each and everyone of us and is waiting for and thirsting for each of us to love Him in return.
Few of us love God as we ought and as He deserves!
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My comments today and the reason I wrote and edited Stirring Slumbering Souls - 250 Eucharistic Reflections and I Thirst for Your Love is to address what I believe are the two most pressing problems in our Church today - the loss of the sense of the sacred in our churches AND the lack of belief in, and reverence for, our Eucharistic Lord!
I am a simple sinful man - too simple perhaps for some of you and no doubt more sinful than I ought to be. Just ask my wife and daughter. Second thought don't.
But if God were to wait for only sinless and intellectual people to speak of Him, the world would be quite silent no doubt.
I cannot do justice to the magnificent Gift of the Eucharist. So, I will write from my heart, hoping the Holy Spirit will make up for all that is lacking in this post. I am not writing simply to promote my books; I am asking God to use me to challenge and stir your souls.
Anything of value I might share today comes from God and to Him be the glory.
A Disclaimer: I am blessed to be a Lay Dominican. The ideas I express today are my own and do no not represent the endorsement of or position of the Order of Preachers as a whole.
I bet all of us have at different times of our lives gone so fast that we missed hearing or understanding God's directions for our lives.
I am equally certain, the majority of us has often been too slow in responding to God's promptings. Many of us have gotten lost and discouraged in our spiritual journey, not knowing what spiritual path might be best for us.
This I also know: We must treasure the Eucharist and make - It -make Him - the center of all our actions, thoughts and prayers.
Listen and feel our Lord's anguish and pain:
"I remain unknown. I am left alone. Even those who claim to profess the mystery of my Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar forsake Me. I am treated with a terrible indifference, with coldness, and with a lack of respect that causes the angels to weep because they cannot offer Me reparation for the coldness and indifference of human hearts. Only men can make reparation for men. What is lacking is the loving response of a human heart to My Eucharistic Heart, pierced, alive and beating in the Sacrament of the Altar. Only a human heart can make reparation for a human heart. For this reason, the angels are sorrowful."
(The Soul of the Apostolate - Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.)
Now let me pause and ask a question, one which I invite you to revisit on a regular basis after reading this post:
"What if, as Father Francis Hudson, S.C.J. once asked his parishioners, God loved you only as much as you loved Him?"
Few of us love God as we ought and as He deserves! That needs to change! He thirsts for our love! We must quench His thirst.
No doubt our Faith is being sorely tested today. The current scandals are so very painful for all of us trying to live out our Faith. But none of this horrific sinfulness and betrayal should surprise us.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard tried to warn us in the late 19th century:
"Let us never forget that an age prospers or dwindles in proportion to its devotion to the Holy Eucharist. This is the measure of its spiritual life and its faith, of its charity and its virtue."
We did not listen to him.
The late Father Winfrid Herbst SDS (a Salvatorian priest and retreat master) tried to open our eyes in 1954 when he wrote in God, A Woman and the Way:
"After 20 centuries of miracles from Cana to Fatima, after 20 centuries of martyrs, after 20 centuries of sanctity in every walk of life, after centuries of intellectual brilliance (Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus), after all the truth that has been poured out by the Fathers, Doctors and ecclesiastical writers, by the 20 Ecumenical Councils of the Church, the infallible pronouncements of our Pontiff...after all this, the world is as pagan today as when Christ was born and had to flee. Perhaps more so... God, in his world today, is as hidden to most people as he was when in Egypt's exile."
He warned us then that we Catholics were suffering from amnesia -- that we had forgotten the purpose of our lives and much of what it means to be Catholic. We did not listen to him either: Had we done so, we would have recognized what was obvious to him:
That most claiming to be Catholic don't know their faith, are not taught their faith and don't live out their faith.
Fast Forward Now to Our Post Vatican II Church.
We are told by various pollsters that no more than 25 percent of those calling themselves Catholic attend Mass every Sunday, and that as many as 75 percent of them do not believe that Jesus is really and substantially present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament!
Simply stated: the root of all that has befallen our Church, the loss of faith and the attack on the priesthood can be directly attributed to the lack of reverence for and belief in His Eucharistic Presence among us and our failure to visit and adore Him as He has asked.
Instead, we have done just the opposite: we have not encouraged visits to the Blessed Sacrament; we have rarely offered Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and in far too many parishes have locked our Churches so no one can come and visit Him.
Is it any wonder that so few believe He is Present? Is it any wonder that so many of our locked churches are now permanently closed Churches?
It is long past the time to stop worrying about hurting the feelings of other souls by sharing God's Truth with them and challenging them to love God as He deserves. How about God's feelings? Why are we more concerned about offending the feelings of other human beings than we are of our God?
We owe all those with whom we have contact, the Truth - God's Truth - in its entirety - clearly and unabashedly as did Father Herbst when he wrote:
"Oh, how it hurts to see in what manner our Savior is treated! There He is in the tabernacle, the Prisoner of Love, waiting for souls to come and visit Him. But whoever gives Him even a thought, one only thought? ...It would cause so very little trouble to go to Him...for just a sweet moment. It would be so very easy to cast a tender glance upon that tiny door...to send a loving thought a-speeding towards that tabernacle...to breathe a few whispered words of affection...but, alas! When it comes to doing something for Jesus that something, no matter how small, becomes at once irksome and grievous-so weak are we!"
(Eucharistic Whisperings - Father Winfrid Herbst, S.D.S.)
And as did Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he observed in a recent essay:
Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, "our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern...
"The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the Presence of His Person, of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, to the center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church."...
But, he adds, "what predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ's death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery."
"The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence."
"The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons."
"The way people simply receive the Blessed Sacrament in many places, as if it were a matter of course, shows that many no longer see anything more in Communion than a purely ceremonial gesture."
"We do not need another Church of our own design...Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the faith in the reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament."
(Excerpts from The Church and The Scandal of Sexual Abuse)
The following questions from the Introduction to Stirring Slumbering Souls are painful to hear but must be asked. They are directed to Catholics in general and not to any particular parish:
How many of us ever come back to Church to visit and talk to Him during the week? When is the last time we spent time in His Presence, just sitting there silently, basking in the invisible but ever-present graces flowing from behind the locked tabernacle doors or from the Sacred and Most Precious monstrance in which He hides Himself humbly behind the Consecrated Host?
The truth is that, to one extent or another, we are all guilty of inattention, indifference and irreverence toward the God Who lives among us and wishes to live within us.
To have the Son of God here with us and not to spend time with Him is the same as telling Him that we are not interested in getting to know or have an intimate relationship with Him and that He is not welcome in our minds, hearts or souls.
With boldness let us acknowledge the following:
Many Catholics don't love God as they ought and as He deserves. Many fail to provide Him the reverence to which He is entitled. Many ignore Him and act like He is not present here with us as a prisoner in the tabernacles of His churches. Many offend Him and cause Him pain. Far too many pierce His side with the lances of their indifference, disbelief and irreverence.
Why Is It So Important To Acknowledge These Sad Facts?
Because such conduct offends God, destroys priestly vocations, desecrates and devalues the Eucharist, and causes countless souls to be lost.
With that same boldness, let's ask the frank questions posed by the author of Vultus Christi:
"Why art Thou left alone in this Most Holy Sacrament? Where are Thy adorers and Thy friends? Has Thy Church failed to announce Thy Gospel to the world, and to make Thy presence known? Why art Thou so ignored, forsaken, and left alone in Thy tabernacles, without honor and with no one to thank Thee for the gift of Thy Real Presence? Why is the world kept in the dark concerning Thee in this Most Holy Sacrament, when Thou art all that this world needs, and all that souls desire?"
Let our boldness continue by allowing the Truth of the following words of St. Peter Julian Eymard to sink in:
"How many among the best Catholics never pay a visit of devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament to speak with Him from the heart, to tell Him their love?
They do not love our Lord in the Eucharist because they do not know Him well enough. But in spite of knowing Him and His love and the sacrifices and desires of His heart, they still do not love Him. What an insult!
Yes, an insult.
For it amounts to telling Jesus Christ that He is not beautiful enough, not good enough, not lovable enough to be preferred to what they love.
(To be continued)
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