Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Radical Transformative Power of the Holy Eucharist

As I mentioned in my post explaining why I'm studying theology, for the Lent of 2011, I decided enough was enough. Either I was serious about believing that all of these
The Last Supper
The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son
of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity

Our Lord's Passion

The Eucharist

are one and the same reality, or I wasn't. Either I was serious about taking up my own cross daily to follow Christ, and to love Him with all my being, or I wasn't. There is no possibility of half-heartedness with being a disciple of Jesus- "because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:16) He leaves us with no middle road.

At the time, I certainly wasn't a "Sunday-only" Catholic. But I was definitely floundering spiritually. It is said that one cannot remain stationary in the spiritual life. If you're not going forwards, you're going backwards. If you're not growing in love for God, you're moving further away from Him. I wasn't prepared to make big sacrifices. Or even small ones. Christ doesn't call us to love Him some of the time, or even most of the time, or just when it's convenient. We are called to love Him with our entire selves unreservedly, every moment of every day of our whole lives.

For example, if one really considers what a TREASURE Holy Communion is, if it really is all of the above images, it is in fact not an It, but a Who. The greatest Who of all, Jesus Christ. How ridiculous then, does it sound to say, "I don't feel like going to Mass today, I'm quite comfortable sitting in the sun with my friends." ??!! In fact, any excuse other than bed-confining illness fades away into embarrassed silence. 

So, my Lenten resolution that year was to develop the habit of going to Mass every single day. I figured that if I could at least commit to that intimate moment with Jesus every day, in which He pours unimaginable graces into our hearts, that even if I wasn't yet completely committed to doing His Will always, whatever the cost, He'd be able to take care of the rest. That is, after all, the whole reason He gave us this great gift. So that we, poor, weak human beings that we are, could go to Him, and be strengthened, changed, and made a new creation by Him. 

I won't lie, it was hard. Sometimes, when I had a full day of class, I had to be up before 6 am to make it to Mass before uni. Sometimes I'd sleep in, miss the early Mass, then have to go in the evening when I was extremely tired, and wanted nothing more than to just go home. Sometimes I'd be on a break with friends, and have to leave the fun. The hardest was perhaps Saturday morning, as local Masses are earlier than usual and by Saturday I tend to be quite tired, especially if Friday is a bit of a late night. Or when I'd go in the morning before an exam, wanting to just study, or right after an exam or assignment, when all I wanted to do was zone out and recover.

It required commitment. Willpower. Sacrifice. Discipline. Perseverance. But above all, the grace of God.

So I got through that Lent eventually, missing about 2 or 3 of the 40 days. (Due to accidental Saturday sleep-ins. Oops!) At the end, I gave myself "a few days off". How ridiculous that sounds to me in hindsight. A few days off from the most intimate encounter you can have with Jesus this side of Heaven?! I would want that, why??!! Anyway, I think at the time I was just tired, and wanted to relax my vigilant self-discipline. But over those 3 or so days, I came to my senses. In fact, I found myself not only realising intellectually what a treasure I was foregoing, and remembered why I had started the Lenten venture in the first place (namely that if the Eucharist really is Jesus then there are very few good reasons to not be at daily Mass), but I was actually missing Mass. Or, to be more precise, I was missing Jesus. I missed Holy Communion.

So, since then, I have kept up daily Mass. And in that time, I have seen a tremendous transformation take place.

During 2011, I found myself drawn to prayer in the Church more and more. I went from praying maybe 10-15 minutes a day in total at the most (not including Mass), to spending an extra 30 or sometimes even 60 minutes with Our Lord, talking about life, and getting to know Him. I started actually wanting to do His will, and so earnestly trying to discover it, rather than deciding myself what I would do and then asking Him to make it successful.

I started spotting more of my sins, previously slipping by unnoticed, and beginning the painful process of rooting them out. As a result, I now go to Confession every week or two, rather than every month or two. I started to become more aware of the needs of those around me. I started to attempt to see the world through God's eyes.

And in all of that, I am happier than I have ever been before, because I am now firmly on the path of trying to be a saint. To be a true disciple of Christ, whatever that entails. To be what I was created to be, that is, a human being flourishing as God intended, ultimately destined to be in a communion of love with the Persons of the Blessed Trinity for all eternity.

Be warned, seeking to do the will of God can be a disruptive thing. If you had told me a mere few months before doing Theology that that is what I would be studying the next year, I'd have called you batty. Or if you had told me at the start of 2011 that I'd be off on a one-month course (the Youth Leaders Formation Course) at the end of the year, I'd have said the same.

But, as it happened, both of these things transpired. I went on YLFC, at which we had daily Mass, a nightly hour of Adoration, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, daily Rosary, four hours of lectures every day, went on a Parish Mission, had a silent retreat, among many other things. It was an intense but fabulous month, a great way to end my degree before starting my next.

I'd like to relate one last episode from the last two years. Earlier in the year, I had an operation, which meant I missed daily Mass for about 2 or 3 weeks, and I missed even 2 Sundays Masses in a row. My wonderful parents were able to bring me Holy Communion about every third day, on average, which was awesome, but not the same as daily Mass. During that time, I learnt a great deal about just how much I rely on the graces I receive from the Eucharist. Living the Christian life was WAY harder in that time than it had been in ages, even compensating for the fact that I was in quite a bit of pain.

I felt generally quite pathetic over those weeks, and was reminded of this terrifying thought: How different would I be if I were not Catholic? I am so dependent on God's grace providing me with the strength necessary to be a follower of Christ, and for Him to constantly be working to make me a new creation.

Truly, Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has left us with the most ridiculously awesome gift. Words fail. I hope this at least has challenged you to re-think your own attitude towards Mass, and whether that attitude reflects the reality of what it actually is.

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