“Something that has particularly characterized our age is what might be called “de-eucharistization”, a decline in the love of the Eucharist. It started when some theologians, completely misunderstanding the Vatican Council, felt that there was no such thing as the presence of Christ in the Sacrament and even cast some doubt on the value of it. So we suffer from what the whole world is suffering. Saint Paul calls it a want of feeling. Sociologists tell us that family life and relationships between people have very much degenerated. There is a want of sensitivity and delicacy toward one another. Maybe the grossness of our carnal age has made us put less stress upon those common courtesies and urbanities which make up life. Little affection is shown between wife and husband, between mother and children, or between father and children. I mean a show of affection; there is love in providing for them, but the manifestation of love has gone into decline. And it leads to a decline in the spiritual order. We have become poor lovers of God. We are not sensitive and responsive.” – Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (Through the Year with Fulton Sheen – 1985)
This want of feeling that Saint Paul speaks of often is due to falling into routine. A going through the motions as we do with many mundane activities. When one first gets one’s driver’s license, that person, filled with excitement, looks for any reason to drive about. This newness has a sparkle about it. Yet as time passes the novelty wears off and the act of driving becomes but a necessity. And in routine we develop a sloppiness. We are not as attune as we should be to safety rules and proper roadway protocol. What is true here can be true in our behavior toward the Eucharist. Those who receive the Eucharist for the first time as a child or convert have an understanding then that they are very likely not to have as time passes. Conscientious devolves to negligence. Initially there too is a sparkle inspired by enthusiasm. But here it is more than the newness of driving. It is the newness of relationship. A relationship with Christ. We are taught by Him and believe that He is present in that sacrament. It is not an object of anonymity, but is known. It is visible in the form of bread, yet Christ said that it is His body. And as bread nourishes the body, conserving life, so too does the Eucharist nourish the soul. For it is the food that conserves life eternal. “For those who eat My flesh and drink My blood will have eternal life.” Yet in being human we oft-times allow relationships to erode. We take others for granted in the assumption that they will always be there. A husband need not abuse his wife to lose her. He just needs to ignore her.
Yet, though we may lose our zest for the Christ by our lack of it in the Eucharist, He does not lose His zest for us. The “Hound of Heaven” is relentless in His pursuit of our love. In the furthest corner of our souls there remains for always a burning ember of His being. It is in every heart that comes to beat in this world. And one day, if we will it, it will again become emblazoned with a yearning for Him that will restore to us the understanding that He is always with us in the species of bread and wine as His body, blood, soul and divinity found only in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. This was His meaning when He told the Apostles that He would always be with them, even to the end of time.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta often admitted that she experienced a great darkness. While administering to the poor, downtrodden and sick in one of the worst parts of this world she often felt no real fulfillment in the task that God had called her to. Yet, the love of Christ passed through her by her acts of charity to those suffering who were most in need to know that someone loved and cared. Great numbers of those she aided asked her: “Is Jesus like you?” She replied, “No, I try to be like Him.” Those who asked and heard her answer converted to Christianity.
Christ tells us that if we love Him we must do what He tells us. In this day of [I’ve got to be me] we lose sight of the value in obedience. For through obedience ego is subdued, opening the way for us to truly be free. Free from arrogance. Free from selfishness. Mother Teresa was a conduit of Christ’s love and healing, and was therefore free to pass it on to others by her obedience. Though she lacked the feeling one receives when a job is well done, she saw the result of Christ’s work, through her, as it shone forth from the faces of those who had lost all hope in humanity yet found it in Christ through her.
So, even though we may not feel the enthusiasm as the first communicant or convert when receiving the Eucharist, we can still enjoy the grace that is inherent in it as with all the other sacraments. Love is not achieved through feeling but from willing. It is through sacrifice in totality to another that love becomes reality. Not in how I feel, which is no more than an infatuation. And, as we know, though feelings fade love is everlasting. This is so only through the will and the willingness to be obedient. In feelings, we will not have Christ within us. Although I may not find a thrill when I receive the Eucharist, but receive with the proper protocol and reverence, I will know that I am obedient to His command, to “Do this in remembrance of Me.” In obedience to Christ is found our love.
Yet there are those who do not revere the Eucharist, not due to a lack of enthusiasm, but, rather, due to a lack of faith. In G.K. Chesterton’s “The Ball and Cross,” Mr. Turnbull finds himself smitten with a local Miss named Madeline. He is distraught, however, because he is a devout atheist as she is a devout Catholic. He is so taken with her that, although he despises God, he still attends Mass with her. Outside the church after one Mass Mr. Turnbull seems troubled. So Madeline attempts to console him by saying that: “I know the Mass is long, but it is eased because the people love God.” Turnbull, in reluctant defiance, replies: “But I don’t love God. How can you love that which you can’t see.” He realizes that he has offended her and apologizes. He tells Madeline that she is a breath of freshness by all that is good and honest, while he is dirty and dishonest. She sympathetically encourages him to attend the next mass in an hour and, before, reveal his troubles to the priest in confession. For the forgiveness he seeks will come from God through the priest. Again, Turnbull pushes back, now with less reluctance, “There is no God, I don’t believe in him!” Madeline responds with calm understanding: “But I touched His body just this morning in Church.” Turnbull responds exasperated, “What body?! It is only a piece of bread! Only a piece of bread!!” Madeline moves toward Mr. Turnbull, face to face, and with a strong expression of tough-love says; “If it was only a piece of bread, then why didn’t you eat it!” Mr. Turnbull’s eyes were then opened by this truth. If there was nothing special in this Eucharist, then why had he been so reluctant to consume it. There must be a God, for what other sane reason could there be to hate that which is not.
When I am hesitant to act upon my convictions, they become suspect. I, then, discover that I have been a fool to no other than myself.