|THE REAL PRESENCE||CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST|
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God. He was in the
beginning with God. All things were made by Him;
and without Him was made nothing that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of
men. And the light shineth in the darkness, and
the darkness did not comprehend it. ...
That was the true light, which enlighteneth every
man that cometh into this world. He was in the
world, and the world was made by Him, and the world
knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own
received Him not. But as many as received Him, He
gave them the power to be made the sons of God, to
them that believe in His name. ...
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among and us,
we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the only
begotten of the father, full of grace and truth. ...
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace
for grace. John 1:1-16 (Douay-Rheims bible)
As we read this opening of the gospel of John, we should feel a sense of awe and wonder at how John is introducing us, not just to the mystery of the Incarnation, but to the infinite love of God for man. A good friend of mine, who is a priest, told me that this opening passage of John is "like opening a book about the Earth and finding that the author has begun the book by describing the Sun, center of the solar system". All of Life comes from our Son, the Son of God made Incarnate, the Light unrecognized by so many living in the darkness of the world. The Light came into the world, but "His own received Him not". His own; think about that. By nature, we belong to God, we have an inherent affinity to God. But to realize what we are and why He came and what our natural destiny is, we must receive Him, for when we do we open the door to Heaven. John tells us that for all those who receive Him, "He gave them the power to be made the sons of God". This receiving of Him is not mere acknowledgement of His existence, but to receive Him and incorporate Him into the depths of our hearts, to make His Life our life, so we can say, with John, "And of His fullness we have all received".
But what is this fullness? Is it not Himself? When God communicates Himself, when He fills us with Himself, He is filling us with His Divine Life, with His infinite Love, for He is Love. If we read this passage of John several times over, meditating as we do, we begin to get a sense of the awesome reality of what the patristic fathers tried to teach us. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his treatise On The Soul And The Resurrection1, tells us:
Moreover, as every being is capable of attracting its
like, and humanity is, in a way, like God, as being within
itself some resemblances to its Prototype, the soul is
by a strict necessity attracted to its kindred Deity.
In fact what belongs to God must by all means and at all
cost be preserved for Him. ...Such, I think, is the plight
of the soul as well when the Divine force, for God's very
love of man, drags that which belongs to Him from the
ruins of the irrational and material. Not in hatred or
revenge for a wicked life, to my thinking, does God bring
upon sinners the painful dispensations; He is only claiming
and drawing to Himself, whatever, to please Him, came into
In just the first two sentences here, St. Gregory has said so very much. He confirms that we share in the Divine nature, that we must share in this Divine nature so that like can attract like, so that God can attract us to Himself because of that sharing in His nature; and so that we can be attracted to God as our natural end; to seek Him out, to receive Him so that we may be made His children. Gregory also tells us that we belong to God and we must be preserved for Him, at all cost and by all means.
Taking the gospel of John together with this passage of Gregory, we see that we are not just possessed by God as some kind of property, but we share a kinship with Him, and through that kinship we have been given the power to be made, truly, children of God. Gregory is also trying to teach us the full meaning of what Jesus told us in the gospel as to why He came among us2.
We thus begin to penetrate, to see a glimmer of the meaning of God's infinite love for man. We know that the Trinity is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know that God cannot change, and that He has always had from all eternity everything that He is. He is I AM. We also know He is Love. What can we infer from what John and Gregory are telling us?
God is Love, infinite Love, and has been Love from all eternity. His love has never changed. But all love has an object. True love for another comes from within ourselves, from the love which resides in our soul, and goes out from us to the object of our love. All love has an object, but God's love is infinite. What or who is the object of God's infinite Love? What happens when God loves infinitely? What happens to the object of His love when God loves that object infinitely?
The Father loves Himself, and this infinite love He has for Himself is personified as the Word, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, He who became incarnated in the womb of Mary as the Son of God - Jesus Christ. But the Father also loves man, His creation made in His image and likeness, and loves man infinitely. God cannot love any way other than infinitely. God cannot love anyone 'just a little bit'. Thus, the Word, the Logos, is not just a personification of the Father's love for Himself, but also of the Father's love, His infinite love, for man. Therefore, the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the personification of the Father's infinite love for Himself and for man, a love so immense, powerful, and incomprehensible that He must communicate that Love to us in a way we could never have comprehended on our own, a way which had to be revealed to us in the person of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. The Father loves us so much, and His infinite Love reaches out to us with such inconceivable force, that He literally empties Himself for us. He gives us His all; He offers us His entire, His infinite, Self; He gives us all - His only-begotten Divine Son. This self-emptying Love of God for man, this gift of His Love we refer to as His kenosis, seeks from us in return only that we love Him, even though we cannot love in like degree to the Love He has for us.
Knowing from all eternity the condition in which man would find himself because of the sin of Adam, part of the Father's essence, that which makes Him what and who He is, an essence which includes His infinite love for mankind, is that of being our Savior. His love for us is too powerful, too consuming, to allow mankind to live in darkness and to die eternally separated from Him. This manifestation of the Father's essence, this identity as Savior, formed an essential part of the essence and nature of the Logos, and led to the Logos becoming the Incarnate Word, Jesus, for everything the Father is, Jesus is also. He and the Father are one.
This revelation of unity between the Father and the Son, Jesus, was something Jesus had to condition the apostles to accept. It was a new concept for them, and Jesus knew there would be many disciples who would not take this revelation into their heart. The acceptance of this revelation, its comprehension, requires a shift in focus, a shift from self to other. We see this developing revelation in the gospel of John. In John 6:44-46, 66, we see:
"No man can come to Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught by God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me. Not that any man hath seen the Father; but He who is of God, He hath seen the Father. And He said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to Me, unless it be given him by the Father."3
And yet later, we see the doctrine moving to a new phase, when Jesus chides Philip. In John 14:6-10, at the beginning of the discourses of Jesus at the Last Supper, after the institution of the priesthood and reception of the first Eucharist, Jesus says:
Jesus said to him [Thomas], "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me. If you had known Me, you would without doubt have known My Father also: and from henceforth, you shall know Him, and you have seen Him. Philip saith to Him: Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus saith to him: Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known Me? Philip, he that seeth Me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, Show us the Father? Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak to you, I speak not of Myself. But the Father who abideth in Me, He doth the works.4
And so Jesus, having instituted the priesthood and the Eucharist, has given to the apostles the fullness of the revelation that He and the Father are one, that he who sees Him also sees the Father. The completeness of the revelation of the Trinity awaits the time of Pentecost. Clearly the apostles saw Jesus in the flesh, but could Jesus have been telling the apostles that they see both Father and Son with the eyes of the soul? The apostles must still go through their trial of Jesus' crucifixion and then be witness to His resurrection. They still have much to learn, much to be revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. They still must receive the Holy Spirit, must still receive the reality of God within them, must still receive the fullness of revelation of the Trinity.
When we meditate on what Jesus taught the apostles in these short passages, the meaning of His prayer to the Father takes new life for us, in particular where Jesus says, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom Thou hast given Me: because they are Thine: And all My things are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them." (John 17:9-10. Douay-Rheims). How much more meaningful is it to us as we read, above, "No man can come to Me, except the Father, Who hath sent Me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day." We know that the Father loves all His children, and desires salvation for us all, and we also know Jesus said that when He was raised up He would draw all men to Himself. How could, then, Jesus offer His prayer for only some, and not all? Is it not, again, the result of our choice, the result of our free will? Is Jesus not offering His own Divine prayer to the Father on behalf of all who would accept Him, and love Him; all those who freely choose Him over the world, those who love Him above all else? The Father draws us all to Jesus. Jesus draws us all to Himself. Each of us can come to Jesus. None are prevented. But the Father has only given us the possibility. It is up to us to make the choice.
Jesus emptied Himself, He gave Himself to us completely; first as a helpless child through the fiat of Mary, and then on the Cross as He emptied Himself of His Blood and His human life, giving everything He could possibly give, for our redemption. Only He could do this, for the affronts of man against God could only be atoned for by a sacrifice fitting for God. No mere man, and no number of men, could ever qualify for this task. In the process of emptying Himself, He gave to each and every one of us the ultimate gift of grace, the gift of the power to become a child of God. His complete emptying of self, His kenosis, was the fulfillment of His burning need, not just desire, to rescue us. His infinite Love for us necessitated this. Even the language Jesus uses in the gospel shows this. He speaks of the longing, the desire He had to celebrate the Last Supper with the apostles, to share Himself with them as He instituted the Eucharist and made them His eternal priests. He could not do otherwise, for the Father loves us with the same infinite love with which He loves Himself, and the same love with which He loves Jesus, an infinite Love so powerful that the Holy Spirit is the personification of the mutual Love eternally flowing between Father and Son, an eternal spiration just as the Son is in eternal generation. Spiration comes from the Latin spirare, to breathe. Thus we say that the Holy Spirit is the personification of the breath of Divine Life shared between Father and Son, a Life which is infinite Love, for God is Love. This concept is seen again in Genesis when God is said to have breathed life into the body of Adam which He had fashioned from the Earth. Thus, our life is from God, is part of God - for God cannot give us what He does not have Himself. Our life belongs to God, and seeks God as its natural end. Our life, being from God, is eternal, created for living in the image and likeness of God. Our life is inseparable from our soul.
God's infinite love is never static. It is always active, always flowing out from Himself to the object of His love, and the more we are willing to accept Him, the more of His love, His Life, He will be able to give to us. Many people do not fathom the love the Father has for mankind, and do not understand that He loves mankind with the same love with which He loves Jesus. In chapter 17 of the gospel of St. John, the evangelist gives us a hint as to what this means in part of his rendition of Jesus' prayer to the Father just before His crucifixion.
Sanctify them in Truth. Thy word is Truth. And for
them do I sanctify Myself, that they also may be
sanctified in Truth. And not for them only do I pray,
but for them also who through their word shall believe
in me; That they may all be one, as Thou, Father, in
Me, and I in Thee; that they may be made one in Us;
that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me.
... I in them, and thou in Me; that they may be made
perfect in one; and the world may know that Thou hast
sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast also loved Me.5
Thus we see that the Father loves us infinitely, and desires to make us one in Him, as He and Jesus are one.
"... that the world may know that Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast also loved Me." What a profound statement! Implied in this is also the need on our part to accept and respond to this love in order to be among those who "through their word shall believe in me". This takes an act of the will, for love is an act of the will. We must love God, and accept His love for us. Without this acceptance and return of love from us to Him, if we reject His love and fail to love Him in return, He cannot communicate His love to our souls. Without our response, He cannot sanctify our souls through grace, and cannot allow us to share His nature and His kingdom as His children, for non-love cannot co-exist with the infinite Love of God. The power we have to become children of God rests in our hands, in our free will to love Him above all else.
We are the only ones who can prevent God's love from entering our hearts. In giving us the power to be His children, He has also given us the power to reject this inheritance. We can become co-heirs by becoming one with Jesus through the operation of sanctifying grace, or we can reject this Love and give our love to things of this world, things with which we replace God in our lives. We cannot conceive of how this rejection of infinite Love is responded to by God, for, as Gregory told us, our soul "must by all means and at all cost be preserved for Him".
To accomplish His will, God had to also give us the gift of free will. This gift, if used to accept Him and love Him with our whole heart and mind, is the key which unlocks His love and allows it to flow freely into our soul, sanctifying our soul and, as John told us, giving us "the power to be made the sons of God". We might ask why God had to do this, why He had to give us this power to become His adopted children, the power to gain by participation what Jesus has by nature?
As we ponder this question, we can come to understand the answer by examining what must happen if we decide to adopt a child and give that child all rights to our estate and our name, just as if the child had been born to us. We must find a child we wish to adopt, and then go through the process of formal adoption. If the child is capable of making a rational decision, the child must also accept us, want to be our child, and agree to the adoption. We can do this because there are many beings which share our nature, our human nature. We cannot adopt a dog. We can make a dog a beneficiary of our estate, managed by a trustee, but we cannot adopt a dog. He who is adopted must share sufficiently in the nature of he who is the adopting party.
In the case of God, there is only one God; He is completely unique. There are no other beings which have the nature of God. Thus, to adopt us, He has to communicate to us a sufficiency of His nature. He does this through the operation of sanctifying grace, a grace communicated through the sacraments.
The effect of sanctifying grace is to communicate God's divine nature to our soul, to Divinize our soul. Each time we receive a sacrament, we gain more sanctifying grace, and participate more fully in the Divine life of God, an effect we will never be able to fully appreciate until we reside with God in His kingdom.
We say that the sacraments impart sanctifying grace, and that this grace communicates to us the Divine Life of God, sanctifying our souls, Divinizing our souls. What does this mean? What has to happen for this to be so?
We have seen how the eternal generation of the Logos incorporates all that the Father is, all the Divine essence, the Divine Love, that is God. The Father and Son are one, are eternally communicating the Divine Love to each other. This mutual Divine Love between Father and Son is personified as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life". He also said He would send us the Holy Spirit, He whom Jesus referred to as "the Spirit of Truth". At the Ascension, Jesus said He must go so that the Holy Spirit can come among us. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, and through them and their successor-priests of the Church He comes upon us, too.
Being of the same essence as the Father and the Son, the desire for our salvation and the Divine Love of God for man is likewise the essence of the Holy Spirit. The operation of the Father is the will for our salvation, prompted by His infinite love for us. The operation of the Son is the perfect sacrifice, as Savior, in atonement for our sins, opening the way for our sanctification. The operation of the Holy Spirit is the sanctification, the Divinization, of our souls. When we receive sanctifying grace through the sacraments, we receive the Holy Spirit into our souls; God communicating Himself directly to our souls. Thus the three Persons of the Trinity engage in a Divine cooperation in the salvation and sanctification of mankind, each fulfilling a mission, a role, in our salvation while always respecting our free will. All we are asked in return is to love God, to love Him as best we can with our own imperfect and finite love, and to love each other. To reject another, in whom God also dwells, is to reject God.
Jesus tells us in the gospel of John that "if any man loves Me, he will keep my word, and the Father will love him, and We will come to Him and make our abode in him". The indwelling Trinity. How few ever think about, or meditate upon this profound truth. The Holy Spirit, sanctifying and Divinizing our souls, inspiring us to keep the word of Jesus, creates the environment in our soul which allows the Trinity to dwell within. It is a profound mystery of our faith. We, finite as we are, can have the infinite Trinity dwelling within. This can only happen through the transformation, the Divinization, of our soul, through the operation of sanctifying grace, which is the operation of the Holy Spirit. This grace is the Holy Spirit communicating Himself directly to us, effecting more and more of the Divine Life and Love in us as we cooperate more and more fully, loving God and neighbor more fully. The tragedy is that so many assume an attitude of holiness without allowing love of others to be their motivating principles, and thus they shut the door on this interior Life. Even many who have consecrated their lives to God through the priesthood and religious life can block this Divine transformation within them by failing to love selflessly, as God demands. All they do remains self-focused, not God-focused, and they wonder why they feel so far from God. By their lack of love and their self-focus, they have blocked the interior Light and thus remain in darkness. In doing so they move inevitably farther from God, for one must love more and more to become closer and closer to God.
From this, we see that Jesus, in emptying Himself for us completely on the cross, fulfilling the will of the Father, has given us the power to receive Himself within us, Body and Blood - Soul and Divinity, through operation of the Holy Spirit, every time we receive the Eucharist. Not just His Body, but His living Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. No wonder He has spoken of the Eucharist to many of the saints through the ages, like St. Margaret Mary and Bl. Sr. Faustina, as the sacrament of His Love. This sacrament is the culmination of the will of the Father for mankind, and the principal means whereby we become in the fullest sense His adopted children. Because of this, we see the tremendous advantage of participating at Mass and receiving the Eucharist daily. By doing so worthily, in a state of grace, we are fulfilling the will of the Father for us.
The interplay of God's love for us and our free will choosing God, responding to His love and accepting the offer of participation in the Divine life, is the sublime mystery of life. We do this by choosing Him above all else, by choosing Him above every created thing, every thing this world has to offer. We chose the ultimate life, as yet not experienced by our senses - denying the world which floods our senses, by denying self and choosing another, and that other is God. We do this by loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We only fool ourselves by believing we can do one without the other. God desires that we become His children who may live in this world, but are of God, not of this world. He offers us eternal Life and glory with Him in Heaven, not fleeting, temporal pleasure on this Earth. St. Gregory of Nyssa explains the relationship in terms of virtue:
It follows, then, that as everything that is free will
be united with its like, and as virtue is a thing that
has no master, that is, is free, everything that is
free will be united with virtue. But, further, the
Divine Being is the fountain of all virtue. Therefore,
those who have parted with evil will be united with
Him; and so, as the Apostle says, God will be
"all in all".6
Here Gregory again tries to explain the force of Divine Love, drawing us through virtue, through freedom from evil, into that state of sanctifying grace whereby we can participate in the Divine life and accept God's offer to be, for us, all in all, we in Him and He in us.
Real love, including human love, by its nature is never self-focused. It cries out to be shared with the object of that love. Love is always communicated, even if not received and accepted. It is a freely offered gift of the soul to another. God's infinite love for man compels Him to share His infinite Love with man. But God is Love.
Because God is Love, Divine Love is both activity and substance, both an act of Divine Will and the substance of God. When God shares His infinite Love with man, He is necessarily sharing Himself, and, in communicating Himself to man, He is communicating His nature and His very essence. Thus, we can say with justification and with humility, that He offers us all that He is, and will give to each person all the sanctifying grace which each is disposed to receive. The more sanctifying grace is possessed by any person, the more the Divine life will have been communicated. To the extent we turn our backs on God, on His love, we reject perfect Love, perfect Goodness, and choose sin and evil as our god. Gregory goes on to tell us7:
If, then, love of man be a special characteristic of
the Divine nature, here is the reason for which you
are in search, here is the cause of the presence of
God among men. Our diseased nature needed a healer.
If we harken back to the opening lines of this paper, the introduction to the gospel of John, we notice the emphasis on light and life in reference to the Word. Jesus is God, sharing fully in the complete Divine nature and substance of God. He is, therefore, God who is Love, Light and Life. It is this that Jesus came to share with us. To share Himself fully, He had to give us Himself fully, had to give us all that He is - God, Love, Light and Life. He does this in the sacraments, but most powerfully through the Eucharist.
He gives us Himself fully, but how is this measured? Can you measure infinity? Clearly, we cannot measure the infinite Love of God. We can, however, see some measure of the effect of that Love in terms of the degree to which we have allowed that Love to become our life. His Love is the Light which casts out the darkness of sin. To what extent has this occurred in our lives?
There are many ways we can see this, given to us by the saints through the ages. For example, Teresa of Avila describes it for us in her book Interior Castle. She describes the levels of union with God that we attain through a growth in prayer life, a growth in sanctifying grace leading us ever closer to God. For those who cooperate fully with this grace, God brings us to a union with Himself, a union which is truly transforming and which is characterized by an intimacy so profound that it is participated in only by God and the individual soul. Each soul can have this most intimate relationship with God, as if there were no other souls in existence. We can receive, share in, participate in this relationship of intimate Love with God in a way completely unique, and to a depth which is unimaginable. This can happen because, while our love is finite, God's Love is infinite. There is no limit to the Love He can give us, the fullness of Himself He can offer us, regardless of our finiteness. This takes place in stages, each stage dispelling more and more of the darkness in which we were immersed. God replaces the darkness of sin and spiritual death with the Light which communicates Himself directly to the soul, and the Life which He shares with us through the sanctifying grace imparted through the sacraments. The measure of this activity is the measure of our cooperation with Him.
He desires this intimacy with us all. Not all cooperate. On those who do, He showers His gifts of infinite Love. As Jesus said, the mind of man has not conceived of the riches which await those who love Him. Our treasure chest, the riches we will receive, will be proportional to the degree of love we lay before Him, measured by our selfless love for God and neighbor, when it is our time to stand before Him. Could anything be more important to any of us?
Considering the love God has for man, and His need to both heal and save us, we can begin to comprehend the meaning behind Jesus' words in the gospel when He said He had not come to save the just man but rather the sinner, for a healthy man does not require a physician. His healing power of love is given to us to heal us from the effects of evil, from the state of darkness which imparts death to the soul, that state in which many a soul finds itself.
But He will not do this simply by a declaratory act of His will, which He clearly could do. Jesus must find a way to break through that darkness while not interfering with the operation of our free will. St. Gregory of Nyssa tells us,
Now it is the peculiar effect of light to make darkness
vanish, and of life to destroy death. Since, then, we
have been led astray from the right path, and diverted
from that life which was ours at the beginning, and
brought under the sway of death, what is there improbable
in the lesson we are taught by the Gospel mystery, if
it be this; that cleansing reaches those who are
befouled with sin, and life the dead, and guidance
the wanderers, in order that defilement may be cleansed,
error corrected, and what was dead restored to life.8
In this discussion, Gregory is emphasizing the need for healing as a primary element of the salvific mission. As both God and Savior, as God - Love - Light - Life, Jesus must provide the most efficacious, most perfect means to rescue His people from the darkness and death of sin in the soul. This most perfect means is, literally, Himself. Thus, He tells us, and John so eloquently confirms, that Jesus is the Light which came into the world to drive out the darkness of sin. A soul fouled by sin, which is the death of the soul, must be healed of mortal sin before the person dies, for otherwise only Hell awaits. A soul constricted by venial sin also needs healing, for the purgation, the purifying suffering the soul must endure in Purgatory, is a measure of how steeped in non-mortal sin the soul finds itself.
The Light, Jesus, thus comes to shine among men and drive away the darkness of sin to heal the rupture in the relationship between man and God. Only God can do this. He comes as the Light, and the Life, of the soul. He is both healer and sanctifier; and so He gives us both the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of Eucharist. All of mankind is the object of His infinite Love, and He has taken upon His shoulders the sins of the world for all time and has dispersed them into the nether regions by His forgiveness, just as He drove out the evil spirits from the tormented man in the cemetery, driving them into the swine, which then cast themselves to death in the ravine; unclean into unclean.
As He hung on the Cross for us, the perfect embodiment of the Father's infinite Love for man, He took up there with Him all the sins of mankind. When He died and was taken down, He left our sins on that Cross, ready to forgive and forget for all eternity. All He ever asks is that we love Him; love returned for Love given. It is only we, in our weakness and self-centeredness, who insist on climbing up on that Cross to recover those sins, to embrace them as a long lost friend, an embrace of death. As Jesus watches us climb back on that Cross to recover these 'treasures', how He must lament for our souls, how it must hurt to see what He did for us being discarded so easily by those He still loves infinitely. He is ready to forgive us anything, anything, so that the merits of what He has done can be communicated to the soul, but so very many souls still insist on putting walls between themselves and Him, blocking by an act of their free will all the merits and grace He longs to impart to the soul.
Those who love God and desire to be His above all else also know that we all must one day face the reality that can send a chill down the back of the strongest among us; the thought of God's perfect justice. We speak of Jesus' return to judge us, but isn't it true that we will actually judge ourselves? Will we not judge ourselves by our own deeds and thoughts? The sentence His justice must meet out will stand for eternity, and there is no appeal. The sentence He must pronounce is that which we have already inflicted upon ourselves. Some tend to question how infinite love and eternal damnation can be reconciled. Just think of the soul steeped in mortal sin, rejecting God's love; a soul void of love. In Hell it exists with its like. How could a soul void of love possibly exist in Heaven, possibly exist in the eternal presence of infinite Love? Would not such a soul, void of love, be even more tortured existing for eternity surrounded by, but never participating in, infinite Love? Hell itself is a creation of both mercy and justice. Remember the first quote from Gregory of Nyssa: "every being is capable of attracting its like". The choice is ours. Either God will attract us, or satan will attract us. Like will attract like. "To whom do I belong?" is a question each of us must continually ask, for there is no question more important to us.
If we look at how mankind has sinned through the ages, we might ask why, in His infinite mercy and love, did Jesus not come among us much earlier? Why did He not come, for example, right after Cain's act of fratricide? Gregory of Nyssa explains it as follows:
When once, then the disease of evil had fixed itself in the nature of mankind, He, the universal Healer, waited for the time when no form of wickedness was left still hidden in that nature. For this reason it was that He did not produce His healing for man's disease immediately on Cain's hatred and murder of his brother; for the wickedness of those who were destroyed in the days of Noah had not yet burst into flame, nor had that terrible disease of Sodomite lawlessness been displayed, nor the Egyptians' war against God, nor the pride of Assyria, nor the Jews' bloody persecution of God's saints, nor Herod's cruel murder of the children, nor whatever else is recorded, or if unrecorded was done in the generations that followed, the root of evil budding forth in divers manners in the willful purposes of man.9
Jesus came to heal the sins of mankind, but He would only come once. If we think about it, all sins since the time of Christ are the same, or extensions of the same sins found at the time of Christ. There was theft, blasphemy, murder, fornication, adultery, paganism, atheism, fratricide, infanticide, abortion, homosexual behavior, untruthfulness, lukewarmness toward God, lack of charity toward self and others, torture of the innocent, child molestation, and the rest. The only difference between now and then is the degree of baseness of these sins, such as the Jewish holocaust of W.W.II and partial-birth abortion.
Jesus came to cleanse us, heal us, of this darkness of sin. He showed us that the infinite Love of the Father for mankind, personified in the Word and incarnated in Jesus, is the perfect antidote for the threatening death of sin. Although we still see sin, it is, as Gregory tells us, like a serpent. You can strike it a mortal blow, but it will still twitch and move for some time after. Jesus struck the mortal blow to satan when He defeated satan in the desert at the beginning of His public ministry, and when He died for us at Calvary. All sin since is the twitching of the serpent's tail, a serpent whose power is limited and waning, a serpent who is mortally wounded, and whose only goal now is not life, but to take as many souls as he can into darkness and death when He descends to the pit of eternal death. It is an act of determined desperation and it is we who have to give our consent to him to do this to us.
We might still ask, why did Jesus have to suffer and die the way He did? Why did He have to go through His passion, and not just teach and then die peacefully in the presence of His loved ones? The answer seems to be, again, because of His infinite Love for man. Jesus could have come, given us the sacraments, taught us, and not done anything else. Had He done so, we would have had to undergo purgative suffering we cannot imagine in order to be sufficiently cleansed of the effects of our sins to be able to stand before the Beatific Vision. But in His infinite Love for man, He suffered for us, and took upon His own Divine self the bulk of the suffering we would have to otherwise endure.
Now, having done so, He offers us the opportunity, again because of His infinite Love, to join any sufferings we endure, however small, to His suffering, thereby giving it Divine merit by its participation with His. Through this act of love, He offers us the privilege of participating in His redemptive suffering for all mankind. We know this because Jesus suffered for only one purpose, to redeem mankind, and therefore any suffering we join to His must also acquire that character by participation. Thus, God, because of His infinite Love for man, allows our own suffering to become part of the salvific act of His Divine Love for all men. However, we must again freely elect to do so. We must make a self-less and freely chosen act of our will and offer our suffering to Him. Without that, it remains merely our suffering and has no spiritual merit. His Love for us drives Him to a desire to participate in all we do, and to allow us to participate in what He does; we in Him and He in us.
From all this, we see that the infinite Love of God for man, the Love which the Father has for man, is personified in Jesus, and through the merits of Jesus and His suffering on the Cross, we are given the power to be children of God and coheirs with Jesus to the kingdom of Heaven through the sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit. We are given the privilege to participate with Jesus in His redemptive suffering for all mankind. All because of our Father's infinite Love for man.
"... that they may be made perfect in one;
and the world may know that Thou hast sent Me,
and hast loved them, as Thou hast also loved Me."
1 St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection, EWTN on-line library.
2 For God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by Him. John 3:16-17
3 Douay-Rheims translation. This last phrase, verse 66 in Douay-Rheims, is verse 65 in the New American Bible. In the Douay-Rheims, verse 51 is "I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven." Verse 52 is "If any man eat this Bread,..., is my flesh, for the life of the world." In the NAB, Verse 51 is the combination of both of these, thus the verse numbering of the remaining verses in John 6 is one different between the two translations.
4 Douay-Rheims translation.
5 John, 17:17-23
6 Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection.
7 St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, Chapter XV, EWTN on-line library.
8 St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, Chapter XXIV. EWTN on-line library.
9 St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great CatechismSection XXIX, EWTN on-line library.
THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST
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