Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Being Man's Eucharist

    One of my favourite things about my Catholic faith is the idea that the mass is a wedding feast – the supper of the Lamb. What amazes me every single time I go to mass is that Jesus doesn’t simply invite us to sit at the table with Him, He invites us to the bridal chamber! In receiving the Eucharist He offers Himself totally to us and invites us to make ourselves vulnerable in offering ourselves totally to Him in what we can see as a spousal union: at the moment we consume His body, blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament, each and every one of us is a bride joining with our Bridegroom. 

    At present I can only imagine what it’s like to walk down the aisle on my wedding day, but I LOVE the thought that as I walk down the aisle to receive communion, I’m approaching the One whom my soul desires above all else; the One who loves me with a jealous and all-consuming love; the One who sees me through and through and accepts every part of me; the One who never tires of telling me of the ravishing beauty He sees in me.

    We’re called, first and foremost, to devote ourselves completely to Jesus as His bride. But it’s also that mutual gift of self that we’re called to reflect in the vocation of marriage. The man and woman both make themselves vulnerable to the other, trusting that their vulnerability will be nurtured and protected, just as Jesus does when He offers Himself to us in the most vulnerable form of bread and wine, and just as we do for Him when we approach the Eucharist with eyes of faith in a miracle which we cannot see. 

    I once read a theory that, just as all women are called to spiritual motherhood, all men are called to spiritual priesthood. If priests are entrusted with the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, what, then, is the equivalent for lay men – ‘spiritual priests’? The author’s answer was one which blew me away. Women! In the words of the great St John Paul II – ‘it is the duty of every man to protect the dignity of every woman’. So, in a very special way, we are like their Eucharist: the body, blood and life source which they are entrusted to protect.

“As keepers of the Eucharist and imitators of Christ, men have the special privilege of regarding women with the same reverence and tenderness as the Eucharist. When a man holds a woman, he holds the body of Christ in his hands.”
(Katrina J. Zeno; ‘Discovering the Feminine Genius’)

    The beauty I see in this is that, just as it’s Christ’s vulnerability in the Eucharist that allows us to join with Him in total communion, it’s through our vulnerability with each other that we enable each other to fulfil our vocation as men and women! In understanding the value of the Eucharist I understand more about my own value, and in growing in reverence for the body and blood of Jesus which I’m receiving I’m able to appreciate more confidently the way in which I deserve to be treated by a man!

    So, please, don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Run to the altar to meet your bridegroom. Give yourself over to Him completely, knowing that in that gift of bread and wine He is doing the same for you.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Strength of Mercy

    I believe mercy is what holds the world together. Where we see it, we also see life, fruitfulness, harmony and joy. Where we lack it, we see poverty, pain, conflict and division. Though at times it may seem like we’re left with nothing but a single thread, that thread of mercy holds us together nonetheless with supernatural strength and allows us to keep moving forward. When all hope fails, a single act of mercy is enough to restore it.  

    Mercy is built into who we are. It’s our vocation as beings made in the image of God. It’s our duty as servants of God. Above all it’s our privilege as beloved children of God. As women, specifically, mercy is the epitome of our call to physical and spiritual motherhood – as we practise patience, generosity, forgiveness and unceasing devotion in the way we nurture those around us. 

‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ Luke 6:36

    Just as we love because God first loved us, we’re called to be merciful because of the great mercy that has been shown to us. To love is to sacrifice. To sacrifice is to give up our own desires. To give up our own desires is to put others first. To put others first requires us to forgive endlessly. In choosing to forgive, we show mercy. When we show mercy, we spread joy, life and love – completing the circle of love and mercy just as Jesus did when He died to bring us salvation! We too need to die to self. Though our hearts are so easily damaged by the words and actions of others, when we allow ourselves to bleed out mercy rather than resentment we join our own suffering with Christ's.

    Around a month ago here in the UK we celebrated the Flame Congress – a meeting of around 8000 young Catholics who travelled from far and wide to gather in the name of Jesus. There, Cardinal Luis Tagle from the Philippines addressed the congress with one of the most heart-felt pleas I’ve ever heard:

“Where there is mercy there is joy. What brings joy, true joy, profound joy, the joy that the world cannot give? It is the mercy of God that keeps us whole, that gives us hope. Be living signs of the joy of the Gospel of mercy. Recall in your lives how God has been merciful to you. Proclaim God’s mercy and the joy that has come to you, because God has been merciful to you.”

    Not one of us is worthy of God’s mercy, yet He gives it freely. In the light of our own unworthiness, how can we not reflect that mercy to others? When we show the mercy of God, we allow His strength to work through our weakness and to bind us together in love.

    Cardinal Tagle ended his address by asking each of us to text as many friends as possible one simple sentence: “Blessed are the merciful.” I invite you to keep that phrase in mind as you go about your day. We’re called to be living signs of the mercy we’ve received. How can you do that today?