Restoration

Restoration

Posted May 03, 2011:
Do You Hunger For God?

by Fr. David Linder.

When I was serving in our house in Ghana among the Ewe people, one of my favorite phrases in their language was "Lōm, na va." It means "Come to my love," or "If you love me, come!"

Often the small "chop bars" or restaurants, where you can buy "street food"—some of them so simple that they are just a roof, some slats of wood and two benches and a little broken-down table—are called "Lōm, Na Va."

One day, I was thinking about that saying, and it came to me that in all the hidden corners of the world, that’s what Jesus is saying.

He cries out from every Eucharistic celebration. "Come to my love. If you’re thirsty, come to me. Do you want to eat good things? Come to me; I will feed you. In the Eucharist is life itself. I will redeem you, and your soul will live."

Is that what you hunger for? Do you hunger for a banquet of mercy, the outpouring of Jesus’ love from the cross? Do you hunger for God?

We know the Eucharist is a source of healing, and it’s a good thing to come to the Eucharist with that desire in our hearts. But the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes points us to a different progression: There Jesus healed people before he fed them.

That insight led me to reflect on the things in me that need healing before I come to the Eucharist.

What kind of things, what kind of sicknesses do I mean? I’ll give you an example from my own life.

A few years ago, when I was preparing to preach a retreat on the Eucharist, I suddenly realized that something was off in my attitude toward the Mass on my poustinia day.

Our foundress Catherine Doherty taught us that Russians fast even from the Eucharist when they are in poustinia, so many of us at Madonna House do too, including me. But that day I realized that the reason I wasn’t praying the Mass on poustinia days was that I wanted a break from it. I wanted a little holiday from the Mass!

There are numerous kinds of Eucharistic ailments, and what they all have in common is the lack of hunger for the Lord. It’s like when we’re physically sick and we lose our appetite for physical food.

Here are some examples.

Perhaps the greatest sickness in the context of the Eucharist is to receive Holy Communion in a state of serious sin. In fact, to do so is to commit another mortal sin.

There are so many people around the world, especially right here in North America, who approach the sacrament—the King of kings, his very Body and Blood—unworthily in this way. Fortunately, many of them do so out of ignorance.

We know the cure for that: go to the great sacrament of Reconciliation, confess our sins, and be forgiven.

But I want to focus on three more common and less serious ailments in connection with the Eucharist. I’ve given them names.

The first one I call Survivor. The main symptom of this one is approaching the Mass with the attitude, "This is one more thing I have to do. I’ll just get through it." In this case, Mass has become a duty, an obligation, a land of boring homilies. One cause of this ailment is coming to the Mass expecting to be entertained.

The second affliction I call Jackrabbit. Someone with this ailment has the attitude, "Please, I beg you, be brief. A two-minute homily, please."

This ailment is characterized by hopping into Mass at the last moment or later and hopping out as soon as possible—like a rabbit, and then going on to do what you really want to do with your time.

This happened to me the other day. I rushed out of Mass wanting to get something done before supper. But then someone came up to me, and we discussed something. I still wanted to get in that other thing, and I did. So I was really late for supper.

When we jump into Mass three seconds before it begins and jump out right afterwards, we don’t allow time for God’s lovemaking.

Imagine what it feels like to a wife whose husband, after the sex act, quickly rolls over and falls asleep. What we do before and after Mass speaks of our love for the Bridegroom.

The third ailment I call Rush Hour—not because lots of fast action is happening but because the one suffering from it is stuck in a traffic jam, the traffic jam of endless distractions.

Most of us, I think, can identify especially with this one. That argument we just had; the problem we need to solve, the decision we need to make, the job we need to finish, what we’ll be doing after Mass—it all keeps rolling around and around in our heads.

Or it can be the press of negative thoughts. "Oh, why is she wearing that?" "Why are we singing that awful song?" "Can’t he preach about something else?"

The bottom line, the common thread in all these ailments is that we forget to pray the Mass. We forget to make a gift of ourselves back to the Lord who has given everything to us.

The Lord stands before these ailments and afflictions and many others—whatever form they can take in our hearts—and he covers them with his compassion. And from that compassion flows his desire to heal us.

He wants to replace these illnesses with some wonderful things, such as:

1) Ready to Receive: Before Mass and Communion, we can have in our hearts the attitude, and perhaps pray something like, "Lord, I’m here for you. I’m ready for you."

I remember someone telling me about attending a Eucharistic Congress with two friends who were recent converts to Catholicism. They were at adoration together, and the other two were on either side of her—weeping.

"How could I not be open to receive the Lord when this was happening right next to me?" she said, "Their faith and gratitude were such a clear beacon to the awesomeness of the Blessed Sacrament."

2) Present to the Mystery: Jesus wants us to be focused on what is happening, and he is calling us at every Mass deeper and deeper into this mystery.

On a recent retreat, I heard a word from the Lord in my heart: "At every Mass, keep two things together: the celebration and Christ’s passion and death."

I’ve been trying to practice this word. At some point at every Mass, I try to recall Jesus on the cross, or some aspect of the passion that I can connect with what is happening unseen at the Mass. This helps me be present to the mystery.

3) Can’t live without it! I remember reading about a Chinese bishop who was 21 years in prison—fifteen of them in solitary confinement.

One day, five years into solitary, the officials came and said, "Hey, we’re going to give you a break today. For two hours you can do anything you want. Do you want some nice food? Do you want to go for a walk in the prison yard?"

The bishop said, "Give me some bread and wine." He celebrated the Mass. And after it was finished, he went back into solitary.

These changes can happen to us, even the last one. We need to pray for it to happen.

When we are covered by Christ’s compassion, when our Eucharistic hearts are healed, then our hunger for him returns. Gratitude for being redeemed swells, and we are able to hear his voice crying out, at every Mass: Lōm, na va! "Come! Come to my love!"

 

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