Father David's Reflection for Saturday of Week Thirty-Two (Ordinary Time)
The Responsorial (Psalm 105) invites us: “Remember the marvels the Lord has done.”
Wisdom 18:14 to 19:9 “remembers the marvels” God did just by his “all powerful Word” sent into “the heart of a doomed land.” The “whole creation... was... newly fashioned in its nature.”
This is the marvel we experience in Communion when it is the all-powerful Word himself, the Word made flesh in Jesus, who comes into our own hearts. Hearts that have already been made “a new creation” by Baptism. Hearts already sharing in the divine life of God.
If, after receiving Christ in Communion, we close our eyes and just let ourselves be aware of what is at that moment, we will know that we are filled with “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:23).
We are caught up in consciousness of a new level of existence. This favor, the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” was given to us at Baptism. In Communion we experience Jesus, God made flesh, putting himself into our hands and entering into our body under the form of bread and wine. The Bread of Life makes the gift of receiving God’s Life a physical experience.
In each of the other sacraments Jesus comes to do something. In Baptism, to incorporate us into his body. In Reconciliation, to heal and guide us in discipleship. In Confirmation, to empower us for mission by the special “gift of the Spirit.” In Matrimony and Holy Orders, to seal us in a special relationship to each other or to the bishop for the ministry of forming Christian community in the home or broader Church. In Anointing, to strengthen us to speak the final, all-encompassing “Yes” to God that brings our faith, hope, and love to perfection. But in the Rite of Communion, he just comes to give us himself.
He abandons himself to us. Not so much for us as he did on the cross, as to us (although the sacrifice and sacrificial meal are inseparable). He puts himself into our hands—literally. He says, “Take this and eat. This is my Body given up for you.” He “hands himself over” to us in a gesture so shocking many don’t dare to accept it. This is total abandonment to us. It invites total abandonment from us.
Essentially, in desire and intention, we did this at Baptism, when we abandoned ourselves to death with Jesus and in Jesus on the cross, in order to rise with him and in him to live as his body on earth. But in practical living we experience this more as a commitment than as an accomplished fact.
In practice we are still not perfectly, totally given. In action we frequently fail to live by the Life that is ours. So as disciples, learning to follow his Way with clearer understanding of his Truth, we repeatedly use the sacrament of Reconciliation. Each time, we recommit to embodying perfectly the mystery of our Baptism—“Christ in us, the hope of glory”—by letting his words take flesh in all we do. We keep growing toward total abandonment. (Colossians 1:27).
In Confirmation, the bishop confirmed our relationship with the Church as officially recognized. We were approved for mission in the Church. For this we were specially empowered with the “gift of the Spirit.” This brought our union with Christ to a new level of maturity. But not yet total abandonment.
Marriage and ordained priesthood are particular ways of exercising priestly ministry in the Church. In these and all forms of ministry there are moments of surrender to God and others in love that approach abandonment, but they come and go. St. Teresa compares these moments of union through surrender to betrothal contrasted with marriage.
In the spiritual betrothal... the union is like the joining of two wax candles.... The flame coming from them is but one.... But afterwards one candle can be easily separated from the other and there are two candles....” (The Interior Castle, VII, ch. 2, no. 4).
We know our Baptism will be brought to completion at death, the “greatest free moment of life.” Then we literally abandon all we have on this earth, saying with Jesus in one final, glorious, culminating experience of freedom, “It is finished! Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” At that moment we count on the sacrament of Anointing to bring us to total abandonment (John 19:30; Luke 23:46).
But in Eucharist we can experience that moment now. In preview, in anticipation, but in the reality of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb,” made present in the Rite of Communion. When we receive Jesus into our hands, mouth, and heart in Communion, we experience him abandoning himself to us. And we can abandon ourselves to him.
At that moment we are not called upon to do anything. Just receive him. Be with him. We don’t need to meditate, to makes acts of commitment to mission or to ministry, to intercede for others. We can do this if we wish, but “there is need of only one thing.” We can just be there in union with him as we will be in heaven. Abandoned to him who is abandoning himself to us. This is a foretaste of total gift in the “marriage of the Lamb” (see Luke 10:42. See Teresa again: “In the spiritual marriage the union is like what we have when rain falls... into a river... All is water, for the rain that fell... cannot be... separated from the water of the river.... Or, like a bright light entering a room through two different windows; although the streams of light are separate when entering the room, they become one.” The Interior Castle, VII, ch. 2, no. 4).
If Mary were present when Jesus told the parable in Luke 18:1-8, how would she have responded? It seems obvious she would have taken the part of the widow asking for justice—but she would have asked God for justice against the “enemy” of the whole human race, Satan, whose “offspring” hers was destined to crush. She would have heard Jesus inviting her to persevere in praying, interceding faith until God “made his enemies his footstool.” It encourages us to persevere in faith-full stewardship until Christ “comes again” (Genesis 3:15; Luke 20:42-43; Psalm 110).
Initiative: Be a steward. Abandon all you have to Christ. Manage it for him.