I have vivid memories from when I was seven years old and preparing to make my first Communion. My mother brought me in to the church where the CCD class was being lined up in a procession line, and when the teacher took one look at me and my height (or lack thereof), she moved me right to the front of the line as all the kids laughed. I had always been the smallest kid in my class even up to high school graduation. I also remember receiving the Eucharist for the first time on that special day and as the priest laid the Host on my toungue, a camera flash in my face practically blinded me. All I could see was a huge purple and gold splotch in the shape of the flash and I almost tripped as I turned to walk back to my seat. It's funny what we remember from our childhood, but it always struck me that I didn't remember anything more significant from that very significant day in my life. The day I received the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time.
All my life, I was raised as a faithful Catholic. Missing Sunday Mass or regular confession was never an option and everyday during the summer, my mother woke all 8 of us kids up at the crack of dawn and ushered us into 7am Mass. Not our idea of what summer was supposed to be about! But here again, its funny that as adults, my brothers and sisters and I reminisce more about how we got in trouble for talking or joking around during those early summer Masses than the significance of what my mother was doing for us; all the graces she was diligently trying to help us obtain.
Years later, when I found myself abandoned by my husband and in a world of hurt I could never have imagined possible, I went to Mass for consolation. But my anger was so intense as was the disillusionment I felt, that I began distancing myself. I looked around at all the happy families and all the loving couples and I felt hurt and jealous. Even here, I was missing the significance of what was happening at mass. All I could do was focus on my pain. I didn't know how to give that pain to God so I simply kept myself wrapped up in it. And although I never stopped going to Mass, the distance I put between God and myself was the beginning of a terrible period in my life. One that would render many mistakes and bad decisions that brought me lower and sadder than ever.
Fast forward through that terrible time and into a new phase of my life. I had suffered tremendously and had come to a turning point. I realized that as long as this wide chasm stood between myself and God, I would never heal from my divorce. Even more important was that I recognized I was the only one who could get rid of that chasm. I had put it there, not God. So I came back to Him and my faith with no holds barred. I confessed my sins and resolved to improve my life a little bit each day through prayer and leaving behind the things that kept me away from God. He blessed me in many ways for taking these steps. But there was one way in particular that really made a difference for me...
I was at Mass one Sunday. During the consecration, as I knelt and listened, the priest prayed the "epeclisis," or the words of the Eucharistic Prayer in which the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. And I heard him say, "Take this all of you and eat it. This is My Body which will be given up for you." When he said "you", I heard Christ saying "You, Lisa. I did this for you." I heard it in my heart as loud as if He were speaking right into my ear, and yet it was as gentle as a whisper. My heart was flooded with joy and peace. It was a brief, but incredible experience and my reception of the Eucharist that day is one that I will never forget.
Every day, at every moment, Christ is trying to get our attention. He is constantly trying to show us His love for us and lead us along the right path. But we are distracted. We are not interested. We don't understand. We are not listening. Our faith is weak and we doubt. Is it any wonder, then, that its the painful times that He is able to really help us? Those times when we finally look to Him for answers? I think maybe that's one great lesson of enduring pain - that through our pain, we allow Christ to come into focus and that an opportunity He has waited for; His opportunity to give us what we need.
Let us resolve to not wait until we are in dire straits to welcome God into our hearts or realize the incredible miracle of the Eucharist that takes place right in front of us at each Mass. Let us open our hearts to Him as soon as we wake and keep ourselves open every moment of the day. Be assured of my prayers for you and your intentions.