A Love That Never Wavers

08-06-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

What difference do I make through my love, risks, commitments, and sacrifices? It is satisfying when we see how what we do or say makes a difference in the lives of others. Not only are they enriched, we are inspired to keep giving of ourselves to others. We become more fully alive than we could ever be otherwise. On the other hand, it is frustrating when we put our best foot forward and do what needs to be done with love and it seems to make no difference and there is no gratitude. How easy it is mentally to go from wonderful thoughts of love and goodness to angry thoughts of rejection, spite, or revenge. While it is hard to be taken for granted and not appreciated, it is even more life draining to allow such thoughts to fester in our minds. They preoccupy our time and mental energy and leave us sad, if not downright angry.

Today I will conclude my reflections on the Luminous Mysteries by reflecting on the fifth Mystery, the Institution of the Eucharist. All through His public ministry, Jesus fed people with God's love through His words, actions, and healings. Never did the lack of a positive response deter Jesus from continuing to preach and be the Good News of God's life-giving love. On the night before He died, a mere matters of hours before His public, unjust execution on the cross, Jesus continued His concern and love for His apostles. At the Last Supper He spoke words of truth, love, hope, and trust. His last words are powerfully proclaimed in chapters13-17 in St. John's Gospel. These words not only sum up His life in this world, but leave us a legacy of Divine love, hope, peace, and mercy. I invite you to take some quiet time over the next few days and slowly read those chapters in St. John's Gospel. Jesus experienced both acceptance and rejection in His life in this world. He was born in a stable because there was no room for Him in the inn, nor anyone else's house apparently. Yet that did not sour His presence among us. Angels proclaimed His birth and shepherds and the Magi came and marveled at His presence. Herod tried to kill Him, but when the danger was over Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus back to Nazareth. In Him God'spurposeful plan of saving love never wavered or waned.

We are the present day beneficiaries of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. The first beneficiaries were the apostles. Jesus knew even as He was pouring His heart out in love on that last evening with them that all but St. John would abandon Him. He knew Judas would betray Him, Peter would deny Him, and the other nine would run away in fear. That did not stop Him from pouring out His words and gestures of love. He took the bread and said, "This is my Body." He took the chalice of wine and said, "This is the cup of my blood". Whenever we celebrate this ritual Jesus is present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Not only is He present, He offers to come into our very being when we eat the bread that is His body and drink that wine that is His blood. Our words of preparation to receive Jesus Himself are: "Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." Like the apostles who ran away in fear, we too can fear we are not worthy to receive Jesus. The fact is we are not. It is not a privilege we have earned or deserve because of our acts of love and goodness, it is pure gift, the pure gift of God and His love in Jesus. As Jesus knew the fears and anxiety of His apostles and loved them, so He knows our fears and anxiety and loves us.

The temptation in our world today is to think we do not need Jesus and His love in the Eucharist. God gave Moses and the Jewish people the Ten Commandments to lead and guide them to the fullness of life with Him and one another. There were no "red light" cameras to check up on them if they went to the temple to pray on the Sabbath and there are no "red light" cameras in our church to allow God to see who is there and who is not there. God already knows. His awareness of our fickleness and ignorance at times does not stop Him from calling us to receive Him. That reception is never one of chiding or berating, but only one of filling us with His life-giving love. We are fed today by many people and ideas that bombard us in the media and public opinion. Two thousand years ago public opinion was roused to the point where God Himself was publicly rejected: It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And Pilate said to the Jews, "Behold, your king!" They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified." (John 19:1416) Today we do not cry out, "Crucify him!," instead we just ignore Him and allow public opinion and themedia to deceive us into thinking that there are more important points of view and ways to live our freedomsthan Jesus did.

No one loves us more than Jesus. Even before He was crucified He rose above the fears and abandonment of His followers and the angry rejection of the religious leaders and the crowds. His love never wavered, it was only poured out as He said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), and "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) There is nothing we can do to stop Jesus from loving us. The tragedy occurs when we choose not to allow Him to love us. That is what Mass and the Eucharist are all about. We never grow tried of being with those we love or being told, "I love you." That is what Jesus instituted when He first changed the bread and wine into His Body and Blood. As we leave mass we hear these encouraging words: "Go and glorify the Lord by your life." The reception of Jesus in this Sacrament of life and love opens our minds and hearts to God's goodness and love for us as individuals and as His people. It also empowers and inspires us to say thank you not only with our words, but by loving those He entrusts to our care as He loves us. Coming to Mass is a beautiful way to experience God's love and to love Him in return. Not only is it a beautiful way to experience God's loving presence, it is vital and crucial to our spiritual well-being in this world and in the world to come when we die.