Not too long ago I attended a Catholic funeral of a close friend. Knowing that half of the family in attendance was of the Muslim faith I asked the non-ordained ‘funeral assistant’ of the parish to please ask the priest to announce the guidelines for whether or not a person in attendance should receive the Holy Eucharist. He responded, “We leave that up to Jesus”. I asked him a second time to please be sure that the announcement was made.
Unfortunately, my request was ignored and over 15 Muslims stood and got in line to receive the Body of Christ. They were sitting a few rows in front of me and so I could not help but observe that one of the college-aged women did not consume the consecrated Host. After I received Our Lord myself I walked over to her pew and gently put out my hand and said, “I will take the Host, please.”
A bit startled, she reached into her purse and retrieved the consecrated Host and gave it to me. I consumed it immediately. Knowing the kindness of this Muslim family, I truly think that they went to Communion out of a courtesy for the family of the deceased so not to offend them. The reality is that they had no clue or understanding of the true presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Unfortunately, this extends to most Catholics who also fail to understand what constitutes a worthy reception of communion.
This experience highlighted for me the deep problem within our One, Holy, Catholic Church. In a world where young people are taught to question authority and everything that they are taught by parents and schools alike, it is clear that the Catholic Church has failed to properly prepare its members with the basic knowledge of this key spiritual weapon (the Eucharist) that is desperately needed to resist the twisted culture that seeks to consume them every day. There is a widespread lack of understanding, lack of respect, and lack of teaching from the pulpit on the basic truths regarding the Holy Eucharist. Do some of own priests not even believe in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Do Catholics today even understand what sets the Catholic Church apart from the Mega-Church-bring-your-own-latte experience? Do Catholics, both active and fallen away, grasp or understand what the “Transubstantiation” even is?
These questions and so many other key issues are penetrated by the new and timely book published by Catholic Action for Faith and Family called “Divine Love Made Flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity” by Cardinal Raymond Burke.
In a sea of intellectually drowning Catholics who have been told for many years to “follow your conscience” without having received the proper catechesis to have an “informed conscience”, Cardinal Burke has just thrown us all a lifeline to embrace and hold onto.
So many Catholics are too busy with their daily duties and the fast pace of their lives to read and research the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, worthy reception of communion, and the life-sustaining power of frequent communions. In his first book ever, Cardinal Burke has provided great insight and summary on the Holy Eucharist while weaving in the teaching from two great Popes: “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” by Blessed Pope John Paul II and “Sacramentum Caritatis,” a Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Benedict XVI.
In “Divine Love Made Flesh” Cardinal Burke shines further light upon the Church’s call to each of us to partake in “the new evangelization.” He enlightens us on the need to desire and receive the Holy Eucharist, a powerful grace to our souls that can transform us in the daily work of our individual vocations.
He reminds us of the prophetic words of Blessed Pope John Paul II in saying: “In the humble signs of the bread and wine, changed into His Body and Blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and He enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope.”
In chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, Jesus says to a multitude of people: “Amen, amen I say unto you: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you shall not have life within you … after this many walked no more with Him.” Indeed, many walked away from Jesus as He revealed to them what we now understand as the “source and summit” of our Faith some 2000 plus years later.
He knew exactly what he was saying to them. He did not call after them and say “Wait, let me explain.” He spoke the truth and offered the words of salvation for those who would choose to hear, embrace, and follow. Cardinal Burke gently yet firmly reminds us that this same divine roadmap to salvation is extended to all of us today.
Trusting and believing in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a willful act of Faith for all of us. We must have the discipline to choose it. The temptation of the human spirit is to doubt. Doubt leads to internal fear and it becomes easy to think, “Am I the only one who is struggling to believe that is truly Jesus when the Host is elevated at Mass?”
The answer is “no.” I recall 22 years ago sitting in Church and hearing a powerful sermon on the Eucharist. The late Fr. Ben Wolf, a very holy and pious priest who was an inspiration in his vocation to all who knew him, said the following:
“How do we understand and comprehend that it is truly Jesus in the Eucharist? We don’t. We trust and we believe. In my entire life and in over 50 years as a priest I have only had two times that I received a very warm internal consolation of understanding and closeness to Jesus in the Eucharist. That was a gift. The rest of the time I believe and know that I can trust it to be true because Jesus, Himself, told me so. That is all any one of us needs to know.”
This was a shocking revelation and a profound moment for all those who knew this special priest. Every Mass he celebrated was a very holy experience and he had a special way that he pulled those in attendance into the reverence for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. “Divine Love Made Flesh” has the very same effect on those who read it. Cardinal Burke has provided a gift to the world on a subject that requires great devotion and faith from the depths of our souls. We so often hear that “love is a choice.”
“Divine Love Made Flesh” is a book that stirs the soul to realize that we must choose Jesus, the Divine Love Made Flesh, in our lives again and again. It educates the reader in a way which helps us to understand in both intellectual and intangible spiritual ways the grace and daily help that awaits us in the Eucharist. This book will lift your eyes to heaven as you gain a deeper understanding of what is happening at the point of Transubstantiation when the bread becomes Jesus, truly present on the alter. For those religious and layman who believe, for those who do not believe, and for those who struggle with what the Church teaches on the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the miracles that flow from it, “Divine Love Made Flesh” is gift wrapped and waiting for you just in time for the start of the “Year of Faith.”
How perfect that this beautiful labor of love is released to the public on the June 7, 2012, Feast of Corpus Christi. Will you be open to hear, embrace, and follow?
“Increase my Faith, Dear Jesus, in Thy real presence here and make me feel most deeply that thou to me are near”. –Oh, Lord, I am not worthy Hymn