Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives
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The Most Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
My subject is, The Most Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Before I begin to explain how the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady are related I would like to give you a brief resume of this immense subject. My plan is to cover three areas of the relationship between Mary and the Eucharist, by making three statements of our Catholic faith, and then proceeding to prove each in sequence.
First statement: "Without the Blessed Virgin, we would not have the Holy Eucharist."
Second statement: "Without the Eucharist, we could not now adore on earth, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became the Son of Mary."
Third statement: "From the Eucharist we obtain the grace we need to become more and more like the Immaculate Virgin Mary and more and more loving like the loving Heart of Mary."
No Eucharist Without Mary
In order to understand why there would be no Eucharist without the Blessed Virgin, we have to go back to the Old Testament to the time before the coming of Christ.
We may ask ourselves, what happened at the dawn of Christianity? We believe that God was on earth and in the world He made from the first moment of creation. God had to be in the world otherwise the world He brought out of nothing would have lapsed into nothingness from which it came.
But when the angel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, and invited her to become the Mother of the Most High, she accepted the invitation by saying, Be it done unto me according to thy word.
At that moment, God became man. The Almighty who had been present in the world as its Maker and Sustainer, as God, began to be present on earth as man.
When nine months later, Jesus was born at Bethlehem the infinite word of God by whose power the world came into being; this omnipotent word became flesh and began to dwell among us as a speechless Babe.
During the years of His hidden life at Nazareth, God walked the streets of our earth, ate our food drank our water and breathed our air. The Creator took on the human nature of one of His creatures and lived among human beings as a man.
Why did God become man? He became man so He could have a human body and soul in which to suffer and die for our sins. He became man so He would have a human will with which He could offer Himself for our salvation by shedding His human blood on the cross.
Keep in mind that the body in which Christ suffered and died is the body He received from His Mother. Except for her there would not have been the crucifixion and, we believe there would have been no redemption. And there would have been no sacrifice of the Mass.
We peruse the question: Why did God become man? He became man so that as man, He could undergo the penalty that a just God demanded in expiation for the sins of the world.
But is this the only reason why God became man? No! Emphatically no!
God became man so He might, after His resurrection remain as man, on earth, and thus fulfill the promise He had made, that, I am with you all days even to the end of the world.
But we object. Did Jesus not ascend to heaven forty days after His Resurrection? Is Jesus not now in heaven, body and soul humanity and divinity, at the right hand of His heavenly Father?
Yes of course, Jesus is in heaven, as the object of the worship of the angels and saints. And on the last day, He will come to judge the living and the dead.
But Jesus is also on earth. That is why right before He died, He changed the common elements of bread and wine into His own flesh and blood and at the same Last Supper He ordained the Apostles and gave them and their successors in the priesthood to do what He had done.
Thanks to the Priesthood we have the Holy Eucharist. And thanks to the Eucharist Jesus Christ is in our midst. It is the same Jesus Christ who was carried by His Mother, on her visit to Elizabeth and who sanctified the unborn John the Baptist at Marys words of greeting. It is the same Jesus Christ who was born at Bethlehem on Christmas morning, was presented in the temple at Jerusalem at the age of twelve.
So we could go on through the fifteen decades of the Rosary. And at each decade we could say. It is the same Jesus Christ, Then and now, there and here.
What do we mean by Now? We mean today, at this moment. Whatever do we mean by Here? We mean wherever we have the Blessed Sacrament.
Our faith tells us it is the same Jesus here on earth in the Eucharist who is in heaven at the right hand if His Father. Is it the same Jesus? It is the same identical Jesus. Is there no difference? There is no objective difference.
The only difference is on our part. In Palestine during His visible stay on earth, the people could see only a man, yet they were expected to believe that man was God. Today in the Eucharist we see only what looks like bread; yet we believe that behind the appearance of bread is a man, and behind the man is God.
One last word on our statement: that except for Mary, there would be no Eucharist. Of course! Unless she has given Him His flesh and blood, He could not at the Last Supper have said, This is my Body....This is my Blood. And when He had instituted the priesthood to perpetuate the Eucharist, Jesus Christ would not be now earth in human in His human nature which He received from His Mother Mary.
No Adoration of Christ on Earth Without Mary
As we read the Gospels, we are struck by the spontaneous adoration of Jesus Christ by those who believed that He was indeed, God Himself in human form.
At the calling of the apostles, Nathaniel told Jesus, Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel (John 1: 49), thus prophesying both Christs divinity and humanity.
In Caesurae Philippi, where Jesus asked, His disciples, who do you say that I am. Simian Peter spoke for the others by answering, You are the Christ the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16)
Before the raising of her brother Lazarus from the dead, when Jesus asked Martha if she believed that He was the resurrection and the life, she said, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who have come into the world (John 11:27)
On Calvary the moment Jesus expired on the cross the centurion who stood facing Him exclaimed, Truly this man was the Son of God.(Mark 15:39)
Then on the eighth day after His Resurrection the Savior appeared to the doubting Thomas. Jesus told him bring here your fingers and see my hands; and bring here your hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving but believing. Then Thomas declared in adoration, My Lord and My God. (John 20: 28)
In every case when believers proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ, they were speaking to a man who had a human body, human eyes, and lips and ears. They were adoring a man indeed, but a man who they believed was also God.
As man they knew Him to be the Son of Mary; but by faith they recognized Him as the everlasting Son of God.
So we return to our second statement that there would be no Christ now on earth for us to adore, except for His Mother Mary. In the Holy Eucharist is present the whole Christ, true God and true Man. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the Second person of the Blessed Trinity, who existed in the bosom of the Father from all eternity. But Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is God become - man, who was conceived and born in time of His virginal Mother Mary.
That is why, over the centuries the church bids us, say the same words to Our Lord in the Eucharist that Thomas said to Him on the Sunday after Easter, My Lord and My God. Why? Because in the Eucharist we adore the same Son of Mary who, we know is our Creator and Lord.
Grace from the Eucharist to Imitate Mary
We commonly and correctly speak of Eucharistic Adoration. This is true. It is also the main reason why Our Lord is with us in the Blessed Sacrament, that we might give Him the faithful adoration He deserves as our Incarnate God.
But during His visible stay on earth, Jesus was not only worshipped and adored. He was also and fervently asked for every kind of help.
And wherever people asked for what they needed, provided they believed, Jesus would grant their request. The Gospels are filled with accounts of miracles worked by the Savior in favor of those who approached Him in faith.
No less than for the contemporaries of Jesus in the first century in Palestine there is no limit to our needs. As a matter of fact, that is why in Gods providence, He makes sure we do have needs. Why is that? So we might come to ask Him for His assistance and receive from His goodness the blessings for which we have prayed.
Keep in mind its the selfsame Jesus now on earth in the Eucharist who during His visible stay in Palestine healed the sick and gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute and restored hearing to the deaf. It is now the same Jesus who delivered those possessed by the devil and even raised the dead back to life.
Yet, Jesus the Son of Mary is in the Blessed Sacrament not only, or mainly, to provide for our physical or temporal needs. He is here mainly to give us the graces we need for our souls. And what are the graces that we mostly need? We need the light and strength that only He can give to enable us to overcome sin. We need His supernatural help to practice the virtue of charity, in loving God as He deserves and loving others patiently and mercifully out of love for Him.
What are we saying? We are admitting our sinfulness that we are always prone to sin, and therefore need divine help to overcome temptation so that we may gain sanctity. We are admitting our selfishness, and therefore need constant divine help to gain in charity.
Where can we obtain this divine help if not from Jesus Christ, and especially from Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.
Growth in Sanctity
All the great Eucharistic saints of history testify to the power available to us to become holy. The secret is to know where to obtain this power. Where is that? In the Blessed Sacrament. Let me quote a short paragraph from Saint Peter Julian Eymard.
Do not go looking for Our Lord in heaven. He is much nearer to you. It is a good thing no doubt, to yearn towards His throne from time to time and to desire His glory. But in ordinary practice of life, it is necessary that it is in the Blessed Sacrament that you should look for and find Him.
(The Eucharist and Christian Perfection, 1, pp. 92-93)
This is the language of those who have learned from experience how important or better, indispensable is prayer before the Blessed Sacrament to obtain the graces we so desperately need to avoid sin and grow in holiness.
Growth in Charity
No less than our progress in sanctity, so our growth in charity depends on the Holy Eucharist.
It is mainly from the sacrifice of the Mass, Holy Communion and the Real Presence that we obtain the means we need to practice the virtue of selfless love of others which is the principal way we show our love for God. Remove the Eucharist and it becomes impossible to live up to Christs humanly impossible commandment to love one another as Christ has loved us.
It is no coincidence but part of Divine Providence that Jesus did two things on the night before He died:
The one stands by the other. We shall be only as patient, and kind, and generous, and charitable as we are living Eucharistic lives. We speak of the power of selfless love. We could just as well speak of the virtue of the Eucharist. Why? Because it is the Eucharist that mainly gives us the power to give ourselves to others in self-denying charity.
The Imitation of Mary
We began this conference by saying that except for Our Lady we would not have the Holy Eucharist. We end the conference by saying that except for the Eucharist we could not imitate Mary who is the perfect model for the imitation of Christ.
We have become so accustomed to using the title Immaculate Heart of Mary that we may not fully realize what we are saying.
We are saying that during her life on earth Mary was immaculate because she was absolutely sinless
We are saying that Mary was the most loving human person who ever lived because the Heart of Mary was always united with the Heart of her Divine Son.
On both levels, our task in this world is to strive-----and ----struggle to become more sinless, which means more holy; and become more loving which means more selfless, after the example of Mary.
Like us, and unlike us, her Son, Mary had to live by Faith. How was she sustained in her sanctity through life, and in her practice of charity? By the presence of Jesus all through her days on earth.
Jesus was with Mary, in His visible humanity, from the moment of His conception at Nazareth until His glorious Ascension at Jerusalem.
Jesus was with Mary, in His invisible humanity in the Eucharist, from the time of His Ascension until her glorious Assumption into heaven.
We shall become more Mary-like, and therefore more Christ-like, as we draw strength from the same source that she did, from Jesus Christ who is with us in the Holy Eucharist.
When Jesus told the disciples Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28), He was speaking to us today. We are laboring and are heavily burdened. Where can we find the grace to be at peace in this valley of tears? In the Holy Eucharist, where Jesus is really present and wants us to be present too.
Mary Mother of God, except for you we would not have Jesus and except for you we would not have the Eucharist, which is Jesus in our midst today.
Obtain for us something of your deep faith in the Blessed Sacrament. Grant that we may follow your example here on earth, so that we may share in the joy that you now experience in the visible company of your Divine Son and Our Lord. Amen
Copyright © 1997 by Inter Mirifica
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