Jesus desires “to give himself to us as much as possible.” (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)
Every day my Jesuit tertian brothers, our nine host families and their friends gathered for afternoon Mass in various small chapels throughout Navotas. The physical environment was less than ideal. It was crowded and hot, with dirt, smoke, street noise, insects and other distractions swarming our senses. Yet, each Eucharistic celebration had meaning for me. Three of those Masses stood out in particular.
On all three occasions, God’s presence was especially palpable. The first instance occurred after communion. I felt a strong sense of God’s love enveloping everyone. God, as father and mother, smiled with delight at all of us present. It was as if God said, “I am here. I will keep my promise to be with my people in Navotas, to bring about greater meaning and purpose.” Tears of gratitude streamed down my cheeks. As I continued listening, I also felt God promise: “I will guide your discernment and reveal your path.” I took deep breaths as more tears flowed. (I don’t really what God is doing in my life, but I sense that God is preparing me for a definite mission that will engage all that I am for the rest of my life).
The next two occasions also took place around communion. In a similar fashion, they confirmed what happened that first time. Although I did not see visions or heard voices, I am confident that God communicated with me, in a personal and unique way that God “speaks” to each of us. The ensuing deep peace and inner freedom, accompanied by a renewed trust, hope, and love are signs of genuine grace. Often we engage in autosuggestion, projecting into God our wishful thinking or what is on our minds. But only God can give grace that yields good, lasting fruits in our lives.
It has been three weeks since those experiences. Each time I celebrate Mass as the main celebrant or in the congregation, I have a deeper sense of the presence of Jesus. Jesus who invites me to “waste” time with him; Jesus who calls me to simply be myself before him; Jesus who humbles himself to wash my feet, the dirtiest parts of myself; Jesus who is very near the poor. This is the same Jesus who desires “to give himself to us as much as possible” in the Eucharist – all that he is – his obedient love of God and self-giving love for us.
When I was in college, I struggled with the idea of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Now, twenty four years later, when I give communion to someone at Mass and say “The Body of Christ,” it is more than just a host or a symbol to me; it is Jesus inviting me to give of myself as much as possible. And in silence I respond with the one receiving communion, “Amen” – “So be it, let it be done.”
I invite you to celebrate Mass more often. And when you receive communion, take the time to let Jesus give himself to you as much as possible in “The Body of Christ.”