Arriving early for Mass or Hour of Adoration, I wondered where the other people were. “Why don’t they know? He is here!”
As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.
—St. Cyril of Alexandria
My belief in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist developed over time, but it was one of my main motivations for returning to the Catholic Church.
After my return to the Church, whenever I would head to a special Mass or Hour of Adoration, I would often get there unreasonably early. Beneath my anxiety to get to the event was an excitement to see Jesus and an assumption that everyone else in the world felt the same way.
It was illogical. I would arrive super early and sit in the only car in the parking lot, wondering where the other people were. Cars would speed by and I would think, Why don’t they know? He is here! Nevertheless, I continued to show up early. Every time, I was convinced that this time people would realize what they were missing and hordes of people would be crowding the door.
One time, as I sat in my car waiting for the church doors to open, I laughed at myself, thinking, It is as if I were going to see a rock star!
Of course my next thought was, Well, yeah, maybe because I am.
It’s odd really. We believe that God came to earth as a little baby. His parents placed him in a trough — a baby as feed for animals. A divine child in a manger — a prophetic sign that God himself would be our heavenly sustenance. Not just in a symbolic way but in a real, gritty, earthy way.
We eat God.
I know a man who converted from Hinduism, and when he shares his conversion story he says, “All of the Hindu stories about God becoming incarnate are something that humans would make up. They were odd, but they were filled with human reasoning. The story of Christ is too strange to have been invented by humans.”
Today, for the first time, I was a Eucharistic minister to our elderly sisters during Mass. While the priest gives the Eucharist to the able-bodied sisters, we have one sister who usually goes around to the nuns who are unable to walk in the communion line. I had heard from the Eucharistic ministers that this is a coveted job in the convent but I never really understood why. Until today.
As I walked around to the older sisters sitting in their wheelchairs and leaning on their canes, I realized that here, in front of my eyes, were the people I had always expected to join me to crowd around Jesus. These women understand that Jesus is a rock star. As I neared them, the sisters would lean toward me as if I were about to hand them their first meal in weeks. Their eyes lit up with joy.
One sister, appropriately named Sr. Charitas, is barely able to communicate because of serious Parkinson’s. But when I approached her, she looked up at me and her face became a smile. All of it. Her entire face. Her smile pierced my soul.
Sr. Augusta, who is a young 99 years old, has serious dementia and often forgets that she has received the Eucharist. Sometimes you can hear her minutes after she has received, asking a sister next to her, “Have I received yet?”
Sure enough, today when I passed by her for a second time after giving her Jesus, she looked at me expectantly. I shook my head to tell her that she already received. She looked disappointed. I realized that her illness may affect how she sees reality but in some ways her world is more real than mine. She has a real thirst for the eternal liturgy of heaven.
To her, we were made for union with Jesus.
We are made for union with the real rock star of the world.
Every minute of every day.
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She recently pronounced her first vows with the Daughters of Saint Paul. She blogs at Pursued by Truth.