Alright, this is going to be done a little differently than how I normally have done these, because this one makes me think of a conversation I had with someone I hold in pretty high regard.
+deep breath+ Here we go…
Recent history seems to be rife with an explosion of all manner of scandals going on in the Catholic Church as a whole, and as a ‘little baby Catholic’ as my friend called me last Sunday, it wasn’t long before that when Cardinal McCarrick was defrocked, I was having a conversation with my friend and made a statement about ‘all those souls… Those people… What is going to happen to their souls? Does their absolution in their confessions count? What about the Eucharist?!’ My friend, may Precious Jesus bless this person’s socks off, put it rather profoundly when they stated, ‘You know, Rea… Jesus loves you SO MUCH, He is willing to allow Himself to be handled by someone whose hands aren’t clean to be close to you. You do realize that, right?’ I am, of course, paraphrasing what my friend said, but this is the gist of it.
When those words were stated to me, I remember just being stunned into absolute silence. Do you know how hard that is, to render a writer speechless? It’s not easy! I sat there with my friend’s words in my mind, just soaking up what was said, the weight of the statement just hanging on me like a nice fuzzy blanket out of the dryer. I don’t mean anything by that other than what I’m saying here: that statement brought up a lot of overwhelming emotions that I wasn’t aware I was capable of feeling (and I’m fairly in touch with my emotions, so this was foreign territory for me). When I was able to find my voice again, I said, ‘I don’t even know how to respond to that. I mean, what CAN I say to something so big, you know?’ I was told, ‘A simple “Thank You, Jesus” suffices.’ Which, yeah, of course, but at the same time, it doesn’t quite fit, because of how big that gift is compared to the statement of gratitude in response.
That conversation comes back to me often, even more-so now over the course of Lent and now this past week since Holy Saturday when I partook of the Blessed Sacrament for the first time.
Holy Communion, for everyone, is different, but it should be treated with the absolute utmost reverence and submission to the One you’re approaching and welcoming into yourself. When I first started attending Mass, I just understood that I couldn’t go up there and receive my Jesus yet, because we hadn’t been properly introduced by that point. Sure, in casual passing through other religious sects I’d explored, but never had a formal sit-down-and-talk with Him before. You wouldn’t invite a total stranger to come live with you forever. You would want to sit down and talk to them, get to know each other, and go from there. Being formally introduced to Jesus, and sitting down with Him and having a real conversation with Him, it’s worlds different than those we have in Bible studies or even in prayers on the fly. Receiving Communion, that’s what you’re doing: you are sitting down with Jesus and you are talking with Him on the most personal and intimate level in existence.
The night of Holy Saturday, when it came time for us to receive Communion for the first time as no longer Elect but as full-blown Catholics, I remember walking up to my beloved priest and he’s standing there, smiling at me and intoned the words, ‘The Body of Christ!’ and he’s handing it to me (I receive on the tongue), and the only thing that’s going through my head the entire time down that aisle and then up to my priest is, ‘This is happening. After all this time, Jesus, here we are! Thank You for getting me here! Thank You for the wonderful priests I’ve had to learn from, and most especially for Fr Mike and Fr Coleman. Fr Coleman has been amazing in teaching me and our conversations we’ve had the last couple years, Lord, thank You for his example, and for making a way for me to be part of his wonderful congregation. Thank You for everything that You have given me and will ever grace me with! It’s so amazing to finally be with You after all this hard work and such a long journey!’ The smile on my priest’s face was unmistakably telling me, ‘Welcome home, kid! You finally made it and can now receive our Blessed Lord!’
Looking back at that event, that one moment in time, I can’t help but sit here and cry tears of joy because I know now finally what it’s like to have Jesus fully with me and me with Him (as best can happen this side of Heaven). The joy is such an overwhelming feeling, I have no words for how intense it really is once it’s experienced. It’s one thing to say, ‘This brings me a lot of happiness,’ and in the abstract, maybe it does. But the truest joy a person can feel is nothing short of miraculous (er… for lack of a better way to state that. Seriously, we have no words in our little finite vocabularies to express how amazing it is to receive Jesus for the first time!).
Easter Sunday, I was asked by a friend at my parish if I’d recovered from the previous night’s events. I simply just grinned and said, ‘Honestly? No. I hope I don’t ever recover from that. If that’s the closest glimpse of Heaven I’m going to have this side of the veil, I don’t want to come down from that, I hope to keep going ever-forward and see the Beatific Vision one day.’ I was being sincere about what I said. I don’t ever want to come down from that euphoria. I know I will, but I have heard more times than I find tolerable about ‘convert fever,’ and even being handed that phrase even the first time set my teeth on edge. I hope never to get to the point where I treat Jesus like a casual Person at the water cooler to catch up with once a week. Never mind He’s the one that created the water in that cooler, and the materials used to make the cooler, itself!
Jesus’ love is that deep and that vast for me, for all of us, and I hope I don’t treat it like some random casual thing. Because He’s far from random or casual. He isn’t Someone or Something to be dismissed, either. And yet, He is treated as such all the time, and it hurts me. Physically hurts me.
Sometimes, I wonder if people stop and think about to Whom they are addressing when they go into the Sanctuary to spend an hour of their time. I wonder if they realize that their time isn’t really theirs, that it’s all Jesus’ and He’s allowing us to fill days that He gives us to do whatever we do. But, yet, we ignore Him, but in the same breath, we say how much we ‘love’ Him. We are so consistently inconsistent, it’s terrifying. We rob ourselves of such a beautiful chance and opportunity to hang out with the Creator of the Universe Who wants, so fiercely, to share Himself with us, but we treat Him so casually.
The fact that He will allow unclean hands to handle Him just to be with us... It stops me in my path and makes me think, ‘Whoa. I’ve been blessed with a pretty rad priest, he’s a good person and tries his best to be as holy as God calls him to be. Yet there are so many congregations, so many people, who aren’t as fortunate as I am.’ We are so quick to dismiss Jesus an focus on how ugly the other person is, it frustrates my soul to its depths. I just want so badly to reach out and shake some sense into people and yell, ‘What is wrong with you!’ But I don’t. What can I do? I tell Jesus I’m sorry. I try to be the example I would want to learn from, to show others who may not be where I am, to get them curious enough about my Jesus to want to be introduced and develop and grow a friendship with Him.
I’m going to leave this off with an invitation: He wants to talk with you. Will you open your heart and close your lips so you can have Him come to talk with you? Listen to what He has to say. Trust and believe, you can’t go wrong! What have you got to lose?