I recently asked a girl about to receive her first communion what she was most looking forward to, half expecting her response to be mixed with the excitement that goes with dressing up and having all your cousins over for a party. Her answer, though, was: "Just receiving Him..." She added after a pause, "I've waited for a long time." Her words reminded me of another girl I met a few months ago. Every time this four year old is with her family at Mass, she tugs at her Mom's shirt and earnestly pleads, "Is today the day? Is today the day I will receive Jesus?" Her mother says it just breaks her heart to time and again have to say, "No, not today honey, but soon!"
What beautiful desire for Jesus! The "No, not today honey, but soon," answer they must hear for years only has served to increase their longing for that day they know with confidence will come when they will be able to receive Him whom their hearts desire. Nurturing an expectant longing for the Lord is what you, too, can be doing in this time of discernment. Expectant because you can trust that Jesus knows what He will ask of you, and when, and that He will never leave you alone in its accomplishment. Longing because your heart can ache with desire to love and serve the Lord in totality today, even if His answer of "when" or "where" that totality will be lived seems slow in coming. Living expectant longing requires patience. And the word "patience" is connected with passion, which stems from passio, to suffer. It is this suffering love you can offer to Jesus in the now, as a fragrant sacrifice, determining in your hearts to never refuse Jesus anything, and to await His lead with trust and confident hope. This is the stuff of holiness, to be alert in our waiting, ever-ready for His promptings; surrendering the little things of each day to the Holy Spirit who changes us and enables us to receive more and more of Christ's Life into our own.
When I was introduced to the four year old mentioned above, and I knelt down to her size, her first question of me, asked with great purpose, was, "Do you make the bread that becomes Jesus?" Her mother explained to me that, on learning about the Real Presence of Jesus, her daughter had asked a priest where the hosts come from and he explained that nuns make the bread that becomes Jesus. Ever since then, she has wanted to "make the bread that becomes Jesus."
Do you want to make the bread that becomes Jesus? That is not just what cloistered nuns who mix flour and water to form the elements do, but it is the what each of us is supposed to do- not with flour and water but with our very flesh and blood! That's the essence of vocation, that definitive "place" where we are to, after Him, lay down our lives in love. To be so given to Him, so taken by Him, so united with Him that, like a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, we are transformed into His own Body and Blood for the world: and this is fruitfulness unto eternal life, that for which we all long and for which we have all been made!
Pope Benedict XVI, in the recently released Sacramentum Caritatis (read it!) said this:
"It is not the eucharistic food that is changed into us, but ratherwe who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting usto himself; "he draws us into himself"..."I appeal to you therefore, mybrothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a livingsacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom12:1). In these words the new worship appears as a total self-offering madein communion with the whole Church. The Apostle's insistence on the offeringof our bodies emphasizes the concrete human reality of a worship which isanything but disincarnate... Catholic doctrine, in fact, affirms that theEucharist, as the sacrifice of Christ, is also the sacrifice of the Church,and thus of all the faithful. This insistence on sacrifice - a "makingsacred" - expresses all the existential depth implied in the transformationof our human reality as taken up by Christ (cf. Phil 3:12)." (#70)
On last May 3, the Sisters of Life remembered our Founder, who went home to God seven years ago. John Cardinal O'Connor was a man who found his identity totally in his priesthood, in the Eucharistic Lord he served. Especially at the end of his sojourn here on earth, Cardinal O'Connor allowed his very person to become an icon of Jesus in the Eucharist. May he now be reaping the fruits of that 'fiat', face-to-face with God, and may he intercede for all of us, that we may do the same.
As we receive and contemplate our Eucharistic Lord each day we pray for you, and for the whole world, that we may all come to an ever deepening understanding of the beauty and holiness inherent in each person, and the potential we all have to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God..."
With prayers in Christ our Life, Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV
Sisters of Life Vocations Director
Sisters of Life Vocations Director
Photo above: Our oldest daughter this past weekend after making her First Communion - more to come on that.