We bow our knees before the Lord
A reflection by Fred Schaeffer, OFS written in 1992 revised 2019
A few years ago, a friend of mine asked if I had ever really hugged Jesus, and somehow in that discussion was the seed that got me to think more and more about Jesus as He is among us. There are many ways of seeing Jesus, and when you can really see Him in any of these ways, you will want to form a more intimate relationship with Him. You will want to love Him more.
Many years ago, I had no conception what Christian love was about. I thought I did, but I was only fooling myself. During those years, I had no 'staying power; I began things, but I never finished them. When you get to stand in front of Jesus when your judgement day is at hand, He doesn't reward you for honoring Him once or twice, He wants to see an unbroken chain of events that lead to Him, to His heart; He wants to see a soul whose life story is that of continual intimacy, continual striving and unselfish love for His Father, for Him, and blessed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants enthusiastic followers who leave no stone unturned to please Him, rather than those who follow Him only so now and then.
Reviewing my actions in those years, I saw growth, but I also saw some regression here and there. There is always room for improvement, and I am convinced I could never have matured in my faith without receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus, daily. How do I tell you that I yearn for God's closeness without giving the impression that I somehow want more than others do? The closer I come to Jesus, the more I feel the need for prayer, and the more I pray, this intimacy increases. I recall a story of a Protestant Minister, who visited a Catholic Church daily, and one day the parish priest could no longer restrain himself, and went up to church, the church where he preached and where he ministered. And the Protestant Minister answered quite simply... I believe that in the Catholic Church, the Lord Jesus is really present in Body and Blood, in the Tabernacle.
Think about that for a few seconds, my friends ... that tells you something.... it tells a story of the intimacy we frequently feel on this journey of faith but also an intimacy which we do not feel often enough. When have we really taken the time to hug Jesus? Are we so used to the Eucharist, that this mystery of the Eucharist has become commonplace? When you receive Communion do you do so because you truly seek this intimate union With Jesus, or has communion become an automatic act that no longer evokes any particular thought in you? Before and after Mass, or during the day, do you chat with others, rather than giving your fullest attention to Jesus? Until 1992, I would have placed myself in that group of people too, people who took Jesus for granted sometimes. And then, suddenly one day, I was given the opportunity to become a Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist and I had felt a further calling to minister to the sick, the Eucharist became three-dimensional for me for the first time and a whole new world opened to me, a view I should have had all along.
When the celebrant at Holy Mass, lifts the bread and the wine and they are transformed to the Body and Blood of Jesus, we may not understand the change because the bread still tastes as bread and the wine still tastes as wine, but the change is there, my sisters and brothers, and if you really think about that at that moment when you receive Jesus in your heart a little later in the Mass, you will see Jesus, you will see Jesus with the eyes of your soul. When you share Jesus with others when ministering, you see the love of Jesus in the eyes of those who are receiving Him, because when we receive Jesus, we are burning with desire for Him.
Not only do we consume the Eucharist in its present form because we acknowledge the kingship of Jesus, and we pay homage to Him as our savior and redeemer, but Jesus (John 6:53;56) also told us: "l am telling you the truth; if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him to life on the last day. For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him. The most beautiful part of the scripture I've just read, the Word of the Lord, is the very last part of the last sentence ... and I live in him... mark these words well, my friends, etch them into your memory, because quite simply put, if you receive Jesus in the Eucharist, he lives in us, and we will enjoy that intimacy that is so hard to describe because' there is no language, no adjective to fully embrace the meaning of that word in regard to our relationship with Jesus in our soul. Rather, it is something you feel when that condition exists, and once you have found Jesus in this way, treasuring this special relationship, He will not let us wander too far away from Him and we keep searching, wanting more and more. We keep growing and maturing in our spiritual life. And John also points out to us that it is the Ascension which makes the sending of the Spirit possible and hence also our sacramental meal "For the element which really mediates life there is not the flesh as such but the accompanying Spirit, by which the Godhead in Jesus is meant."
Just as Christian love does not emerge from human emotion, the intimacy of our souls which defines our relationship with Jesus also has nothing to do with human emotion. In fact, as you mature in your life of the spirit, it will become apparent to you that this yearning for intimacy bears fruit when its stimulus is not one of self-satisfaction as much as one of giving. To put this concept another way, Jesus will undoubtedly be more pleased when you share your innermost thoughts with Him because you love Him, then if you did so because it felt good. For years, when I didn't know Jesus so well, and I was feeling the pinch of loneliness, I wanted to feel that intimacy I had experienced in the Capuchin Order so many years ago, but the spiritual groundwork was no longer in place, and then it became a search for pleasure, and I can tell you that Satan lies in wait when we're given to searches for pleasure, for self-satisfaction, for self-indulgence. He leads us under the guise of feeling spiritual, further and further away from Jesus. That yearning for love is emotional and the yearning for a close intimacy with Jesus should not be based on human emotion but rather, it should have its basis on deep respect and true Christian love for One who loves us unconditionally and without reservations. He asks no less of us. Let us love Him because He is Lord!
Written by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs