In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Jesus says, as I have loved you, God never ceases to love us, we are the work of His hands and made in his image. God will hate our sin but he’ll never hate us. Even when we’ve turned away from Him, His love still presses upon us trying to find a weak spot in the hard shell of our self love and through this weak spot he can enter and turn us back to him.
At every moment we have God’s complete attention, His undivided love. Right now God is thinking of you, looking directly at you, loving you. God loves us with a terrific and infinite love and he’s always aware of our present problems; he cares tremendously about what happens to us. And out of the burdens we carry today, burdens imposed upon us by the ignorance or malice of others or by our own foolishness, out of these burdens God is going to bring good to us. It’s the certainty of this truth, of God’s love for us; that has to be the foundation of our life.
St. Catherine of Siena was very certain of God’s love; it was the foundation of her life. St. Catherine, born in the 14th century, was the youngest of 25 children in the Benincasa family. She was a mystic and a brilliant author and because of the brilliance of her writings she’s a Doctor of the Catholic Church. St. Catherine like all the Saints had a deep and abiding love of the Eucharist. Many chapters in her book, “The Dialogue” are devoted to the mystery of the Eucharist. She writes that there are four qualities, or attitudes of the heart, that we have to have in order to strengthen and deepen our reception of our Lord in the Eucharist. These four qualities are faith, love, desire, and conversion.
First is faith, a living faith firmly believes in the Trinity’s personal love for each of us. “God cares for each of us as if she alone existed, and for all of us as if we are but one.” Jesus within the Eucharist wants to be intimately united with us so that we can share in his divine life.
Second, is love and our faith leads us to love. When we realize how much we are truly loved by God, the only adequate response is to love in return. And the best way we can express a free, self-giving love for God is to love our neighbor. The Eucharist is the self-giving love of the Savior and fruitful reception of Holy Communion deepens our love for God and neighbor.
Third on St. Catherine’s list is desire. She wrote that our human actions are finite, but our desires can be infinite. We can desire the infinite; we can and should desire God Himself, because He desires us. If we don’t expect much from Holy Communion we won’t receive much. Desire determines the spiritual fruitfulness of Holy Communion. The more we desire the more fruitful. Desire for God will direct all of our actions toward giving him glory and honor, not only at Mass but during every moment of our day. We always pray to the Holy Spirit for an ardent desire of God.
Fourth on the list, is conversion and as we grow in faith, love, and desire the Holy Spirit more clearly reveals to us our shortcomings. We see how much more we need to change. Conversion is a process of growth, we patiently move forward, step by step. We turn away from our old ways of living and begin thinking and acting like the Person we receive in Holy Communion.
I once read that after receiving Communion the Eucharistic bread remains in our stomach for up to fifteen minutes. During that short period of time after receiving Communion we contain within ourselves the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord. We are walking Tabernacles. In the short period of time after having all received the Eucharist, we all have the real presence of Jesus within us and we can in a very real way see how we’re all each other’s brother and sister and how we all make up the One Body of Christ. This helps us to follow the new commandment that Jesus gave us: Love one another. In loving one another we love Jesus.
May we like St. Catherine see the Blessed Sacrament with the Eyes of Faith, receive the Blessed Sacrament with the Hands of Love, and Taste the Blessed Sacrament with a Holy Desire.
May we be great Saints,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley