Reflection on the Eucharist – looking for that safe place? – A Reflection for REC by Don Wilson
When in doubt, You are there in Your word
When in fear, You are there in Your strength
When abandoned, You are there as love
When tempted to the darkness of despair, You are there as light
When in confusion, You are there as peace
When nothing else makes sense, You are there to show the way.
For what it was worth, I knew in my heart that I always wanted to follow the Lord. Being baptized and raised in the Dutch Reformed church, I learned many of the Christian Protestant celebrations, (Christmas and Easter etc.) but was never able to grasp the true essence of the Eucharist as expressed in liturgy, and the additional spirituality of events like Advent and Lent. These are soon followed by Christ’s Ascension, and then perhaps the greatest celebration of all… Pentecost.
When I was in college, not practicing Catholicism and studying other religions, I was introduced to the Catholic Church by a very special person and discovered that all those other religions came up short when I compared them to Catholicism. Yet, I remained too presumptuous, perhaps too oblivious, to even think about what I was missing by not participating in the life of the Catholic Church. At times it was in the back of my mind as something that would be nice to do, but I did not make a serious effort to do it. In retrospect I suppose it could all be chalked up to my immaturity
Like many other souls, I finally had a conversion experience, when I concluded my time in RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. This is how one is brought into the Church. I may not have realized exactly what was happening at the time, but looking back at where I was in raising my family, and working in a very high-pressure industry, the memory that is strongest is getting up to go to Communion. I later described it as the moment Jesus grabbed hold of my heart, when I received Him in the Eucharist. Although I had not yet been to Confession and therefore should not have received Communion (unaware as I was), God in His love and mercy still used that moment. It was a point of departure to a new direction, where I would begin to pursue the love that He held out to me.
It took a little while to get there, but He kept calling my family and me, and we finally started going to church on a regular basis. Besides the obvious benefits of participating in the Mass, two other wonderful things happened: My love of history and of the Church was renewed, and my desire to learn more increased. Secondly, I was blessed to be a part of a community that really embraced their faith – and actually wanted to serve the Lord by serving each other. Sunday Mass was never really routine and was no longer something I even had an option about; it became a given. I wanted to be there to worship God in thanksgiving for the most beautiful gift of His son by receiving the gift of faith. My wife’s involvement in the faith has diminished over the years. She was raised Catholic, attending Catholic school and college; for whatever reason, she has not found what I have found in the Church.
Then came the day when my parish offered the opportunity to serve in the REC (Prison) Ministry. At first I was a bit apprehensive, but after having conferred with someone who has been at the heart of this ministry, John Koubek, I decided to take the leap of faith and prepare myself for my first REC Retreat. – And as many of you here tonight can attest, I’ve never looked back!
In this ministry I have found a relationship with all of you Jesus that I have not found anywhere else. Now, how do I express this devotion that He has inflamed in me and to which I believe He is truly calling?
As part of my vocation, I began attending REC Bible Study, here at Coxsackie and daily Mass as often as I could, and I learned from my Pastor to take better advantage of the time after receiving Jesus in communion, a most intimate time of prayer.
While I’m still far from pure of heart and single-minded in my devotion, having Christ in the Eucharist as the center of my life is my goal and a calling, and I can see more and more how that plays out in my own difficulties and growth. In the Eucharist, Jesus has become the point of reference for my faith, for “He is my rock, my fortress, my stronghold, my savior, my shield, my place of refuge” (Psalm 18:2). When I am tempted with doubts and despair, the Eucharist is my source of reasoning that leads me back to faith. When I have doubted the existence of God, I could never doubt His existence in Jesus, because I have experienced this existence in the Eucharist. I have found release, acceptance, comfort, the healing of hurts, forgiveness, and perhaps most importantly, strength in my brokenness. I felt time disappear. I have felt His presence. And when I don’t “feel” anything, I recall the life events that He planted in my memory and this recollection feeds my faith.
When I have doubted whether Christ really meant to establish such a huge institution as the Church structure is today, I remember that He is present in the Eucharist because of the church He established When I hear others complain against the authority of the Church, sometimes causing further doubt in myself, I realize that Christ gave that authority to His Church and the Church has lovingly used this authority to make Christ present in our midst, following His command to “do this in memory of me.”
When I have found it difficult in my self-centeredness to be thankful to God, I can usually feel humility welling up inside of me when I remember the gift of Christ’s sacrifice He gave and is continually giving to me. So the Eucharist has become my wellspring of gratitude. When I’m tempted to judge others and I find love difficult, I remember Jesus in the Eucharist and I ask myself, “Who am I that my Lord should come to me?” And if I let it, my heart becomes a little softer and gentler and expands with the mercy He places there.
Sometimes I find myself in despair over the suffering in this world. It does make me wonder how Christ could choose to be present in it the way He is How He could choose to be present in a Church whose members, like me, sometimes do ungodly things? Then I remember how He chose to become incarnate (invested in bodily nature or human form) in our broken world in the first place. How in human flesh He delivered Himself into the hands of sinful men, and He still does so. I think of how He was treated when He walked the earth, and how He still loved us and promised to remain with us always, “even until the end of time”…. and so He has remained in the Eucharist. Because His divine love is greater and stronger than any suffering, He inspires the certain hope that there is meaning in all of this and that it will lead us to joy on the other side.
And finally, If I may, let me close with this thought: “While Christ is present to us in many different ways, His presence in the Eucharist is unique and is unmatched this side of heaven. As we all celebrate Mass this weekend let us search to find the comfort, acceptance, nourishment and, again, strength in our brokenness. And always know that we are in a safe place and never alone.”