An Unworthy Hunger

  
Today, I passed by my childhood Baptist church on my way home from Mass. The building is a little bigger now than in those years and the gravel parking lot is paved. I haven’t seen the inside in more than 30 years, when I went to the wedding of a friend. Today, their preacher seemed to be keeping them “overtime.” It made me smile as I thought of the fidgeting children and the anxious men looking at their football watches. I thought of the preacher, glancing at his sermon notes, quoting Scripture, and exhorting his members to follow Christ in everything. He was feeding them with the word of God and they were hungry for it.

I remember that hunger, sitting in those same pews on Sundays, loving the hymns we sang and the preaching. But, even as a child, I knew there was more. I knew there had to be more. Once a month or so we’d share the “Lord’s Supper” which was small crackers and tiny cups of grape juice. We were to imagine how the Apostles shared the meal with Jesus on the night He was betrayed. We were to feel the closeness of that first family of faith as we ate and drank. I remember it as a moving experience and wishing we could do it more often. But still, it didn’t fill that hunger inside of me, of wanting more of Jesus and not knowing where to go for Him. I remember thinking, “Is this all there is? This preacher and this occasional meal?” It took me several years but the Lord led me to the Catholic Church. He led me through reading the works of the early Church Fathers and the Scriptures given to us by the Church. I came to know that Jesus DID leave us more than preaching and hymns. He left us a Church, which gave us the Holy Scriptures. And He left us Himself in the Holy Eucharist. That Presence is what and Whom I had hungered for, and, undeserving as I am, He left for me.

Eucharist means “thanksgiving” so this week is a wonderful time to be grateful for His gift to us. At every Mass, we kneel at the foot of the Cross and He comes to us to save us. His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are given to us anew in the Most Blessed Sacrament. This communion isn’t a mere remembrance of a meal shared by the Apostles. It is Himself, truly present, just as He said: “Take this and eat it for this is My Body…this is My Blood”(Matthew 26-26:28). I believe His words: “Then Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you”(John 6:53). That life, given freely in Baptism and renewed in the Eucharist, was what I’d hungered for before I entered the Church. And that life remains the source of my daily gratitude and thanksgiving.

A sinner, He came to suffer and die for me. A sinner, He clung to the Cross to spill His Holy Blood for me. A sinner, He gave His Blessed Mother to me. A sinner, He rose from the tomb for me. A sinner, He gave His Church to me. A sinner, He gave His Sacraments to me. A sinner, He gives me HIs Body and Blood. A sinner, His mercy forgives me. A sinner, deserving of nothing, He gives me a share of His Kingdom. This week of Thanksgiving always reminds me of my journey to Christ in the Eucharist and my overwhelming gratitude for that most wondrous Gift.  

“Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him on the last day.”

    —John 6:54 

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