Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyons and Primate of the Gauls gave us the catechesis this morning, on the Eucharist, memorial of the paschal mystery. He focused on the presence, sacrifice, and communion Jesus offered then and offers now. Jesus makes Himself present to us, He freely offers Himself out of love for us, and He brings us into communion with Him in the Father's love by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Such an offering of one's life is both a gift and a fight. Just as Jesus wrestled with the giving of his life for us, so we too wrestle with the giving of our life out of love. The love of God in Jesus requires everything of us, that we offer our whole lives to God in Jesus and with Jesus. This love is so great that it requires our whole life to live it out, either in Marriage, or Holy Orders, or in some other form of vocation.
In his testimony yesterday, Jean Vanier explored how it is that people with handicaps more openly seek real presence from people, though it is something we all crave and desire. Jesus made Himself truly present to people in his life on Earth and continues to do that for us in the Holy Eucharist, both within Mass and in the reserve of the Blessed Sacrament.
It's only possible to perceive Jesus' presence by lingering there, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, for a while. We know and believe that in offering his life for us and for all humanity, sinners all, Jesus made a sacrificial offering to God his Father. We tend to think of sacrifice as something awful, painful, difficult to do, but Bishop Barbarin led us into another view of it.
He gave the example of a mother who threw herself headlong into the preparations for a birthday party for her son and did it with joy and delight, not thinking of the time and effort and expense it cost her. Not too long later, her son fell seriously ill, and again she threw herself headlong into all she could do to understand the disease and seek out treatments for him.
People looking on thought and even said to her she was behaving like a mad woman, neglecting herself and not counting the cost of her efforts for her son, but no one dared to try to stop her because there was something unstoppable in her devoted love. She could do nothing less than she did out of her great maternal love, nor would she for a moment consider doing less. It was spontaneous and natural for her to do as she did.
Such was the sacrifice of Jesus, not a chore, duty, or burden, but a spontaneous outpouring of his love for us in the conditions in which He found Himself in face of the authorities and attitudes of his contemporaries. Not only did Jesus offer Himself for all people of all time, He found a way to allow us to enter into his offering of Himself, and that is the Eucharist. Our participation in the Holy Eucharist is not full and complete until we enter willingly, spontaneously, and gladly into Jesus offering of Himself and offer up our own lives to the Father in order to follow Jesus.
In the everning conference given in Spanish by Mr. José H. Prado Flores, Director and founder of the St. Andrew School of Evangelization, he said that we are not fully disciples until we allow ourselves to be molded and shaped by Jesus in his hands like a loaf of bread or a lump of clay. He led us in a reflection on the 7 steps in the process of discipleship summarized in what Jesus did at the Last Supper. Jesus (1) took bread in his sacred hands, (2) blessed it, (3) broke it, (4) gave it to his disciples, (5) saying, "This is my body...." (6) "eat it...", (7) "Do this in memory of Me."
It is only in Jesus' hands that we can be shaped into disciples. There, as we listen to Jesus and the Word He speaks to us, we are shaped in accord with his mind and heart. We cannot be his disciples unless we listen, read, and ponder his Word all the time.
Without returning to the Word of God we are like a woodsman who works harder and harder but cuts less and less trees because his axe is losing more and more edge. His companion steadily produces the same number of trees and even seems to go away to rest, because those are the times he sits down to sharpen his axe.
Jesus breaks us like bread in order to purify the intentions of our hearts until we desire only one thing, the Father's will, just like Jesus. We are either purified of our sins, like Mary Magdalene, or else in view of the mission the Lord knows He wants to entrust to us. The greater the mission, the greater the purification we must endure. The Lord breaks and purifies us through opposition or persecution we must endure when we try to live the Gospel and others don't like it, when we proclaim Jesus and people ridicule us because they are caught up in the way the world thinks.
The Lord also purifies us through failures we undergo in trying to serve Him. We are purified of any need for recognition and applause, or for the affection of others. The Lord also breaks us and purifies us through the humiliation of our sin and of our condition as sinners. While we must weep for our sins, we can rejoice that the Lord uses even our sins to purify us and give us a capacity of compassion for sinners.
Jesus distributes his disciples just as He distributed the bread He had broken. Once He has broken and purified the intentions of our hearts, Jesus distributes us and gives us to others, that we might make other disciples to be formed by Jesus and become like Him too. Jesus says of us too that we are his Body, just as the priest says it of himself as He says it of Jesus, who calls him to live out the same gift Jesus is offering today through the priest.
For a disciple to become identified with Jesus' Body means that the disciple becomes one with his Master, proclaiming the Good News as Jesus did, serving, healing, loving, suffering, and dying as Jesus did, becoming another Jesus for people today. Then Jesus says to people "Take and eat..." The disciple becomes bread to be eaten by people today famished for the life only Jesus can give. The disciple is to be eaten and disappear, leaving only Jesus to be seen; so that people will eat us and find Jesus and believe in Him, follow Him, and love Him.
Finally, just as Jesus forms us into his disciples, He tells us to go and do the same in his memory, so that it's not just the Mass He wants us to go on doing in his memory but also the giving of ourselves as He did and the making of more disciples as He did. Jesus wants for us the joy of Andrew, who brought Simon to Jesus, and Simon became a greater disciple and apostle than Andrew was. This is the joy of the disciple, to make Jesus known and loved and to bring more disciples to Him, who will in turn bring more people to Jesus, that they may know and love Him.
Feel free to check out further impression in my French blog....