I responded, “The only ticket necessary for this event is a heart open to prayer.”
The Vatican began a new initiative this year in which they offer an hour of Eucharistic Adoration in St. Peter’s Square every second Tuesday of the month on the steps in front of the towering façade. The purpose of the time of prayer is to put the focus on the reality of Jesus in our midst and to help pilgrims experience the reality that Christ continually dwells in the world through His Church. Being a seminarian studying at the North American College, I can walk 10 minutes and be in the center of St. Peter’s Square.
In October, I went for the first time to this celebration. One of the great things about this event for a seminarian from the United States is that, in Rome, there is the opportunity to encounter people from all over the world. On that night, I met a group of three German young people who seemed to be in line but looked confused. I started to make my way around them and quickly realized that they were interested in going to “the event.” They turned to me and one of the young women asked me, “Are there tickets for this?” I responded, “The only ticket necessary for this event is a heart open to prayer.” I think they were intrigued by this but more excited at the sound of a free event in such an important place for art and culture.
Jesus shares His everything
As we walked up towards the altar, the priest was in the process of exposing the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. I quickly noticed that this group of three Germans looked very confused. I approached them and asked if they understood what was taking place and if they were Catholic. The young man said “yes” while the two girls with him both said that they were Protestant. I was moved to invite them to worship. I turned to them, feeling filled with the Lord’s own longing for His children to come to Him, and said, pointing towards the Eucharist:
“That is Jesus right over there. He longs to share Himself with you. I promise you that indeed it is Him there. This time of prayer will be for an hour, so find a seat and simply bring a heart willing to receive the gift of Jesus giving Himself to you.”
After this, I separated from them and found a seat with the other seminarians. This encounter inspired me so much in my prayer because it was a reminder for me that in Adoration, Jesus really wants to share His everything with us. That is what we believe the Eucharist to be – the fullness of Jesus Christ who in one and the same instant is the full revelation of the Father and the One who sends to us the Holy Spirit as our counselor and guide towards the fullness of truth.
Soon enough, the Holy Hour came to a close. My prayer during that Holy Hour focused on my insufficiencies and how I needed to surrender those worries to the Lord who gives me everything in the Eucharist. Jesus answered those prayers because after prayer, those three German young adults approached me again. The young man, shaking my hand, said, “Thank you so much for helping us understand what was going on.” I said, “You’re welcome” and the group of them just stood there for a moment, as though they were seeking something more from me. However, the strange thing was that even as they approached me, I could tell that they were not approaching me for my own sake, but they were approaching me as a man who they believed to know Jesus Christ as an intimate friend. They saw something in me that I was not seeing in myself.
Sharing God’s glory
These people were moved by the time of prayer but did not understand it. I found myself in a position where I had to preach to them anew the kerygma. The kerygma is a fancy way of saying, ‘the core message of the Gospel’ – the whole reason for all of Jesus’ ministry.
I began to explain that God had created the whole world out of a burning desire to share with the world His goodness. So many times we fell short of that goodness and so in the fullness of time, God sent Jesus Christ His Beloved Son – fully God and fully man – to be an image of God’s desire for His people to be in union with Him. Therefore, we can trust that God is willing to go to extreme limits to invite us into His joy. I finished by saying that union with God is what will completely fill us – it is the only thing that truly will bring us happiness and that is why Jesus gave us the Eucharist. It is a visible sign that Jesus Christ longs to be with us and to share Himself fully with us.
I was absolutely certain of God’s love for me and these people in that moment. My insufficiencies disappeared in surrendering myself to God’s own longing, which in a mysterious way became my own longing – an invitation to peace and rest.
However, one girl asked, “If you just said that the Eucharist is truly the body of Christ, would that not make you cannibals?” I immediately responded trying to offer an explanation for how, although all of the accidents remain, the substance is transformed into Christ’s body. Recognizing that this explanation made no sense to her, I began to offer another answer. I said,
“God created the whole world so that He could share Himself with us. He had absolutely no need for us but He did it anyway because He really cares that we can share in His glory. If he fulfilled this desire at the beginning of time by making the whole world out of nothing, is it really so inconceivable that he would go to such great lengths to continue to do so for us now by effecting the change of bread and wine into His body and blood? In the Eucharist, He gives us everything!”
The Communion we share
I said furthermore that Jesus is not just like any other man walking on the street. Our shared faith as Catholics and Protestants is constructed on the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father in glory. His glorified body, therefore, must be understood on different terms than our corruptible bodies. Because the nature of a glorified body is largely hidden from us, it is not inconceivable that the glorified body of Jesus could be eaten by the faithful without taking away from Him any of His honor, power, or glory.
I assured them all along that these things are hard to wrap the mind around. But I also told them that I have gone through painstaking efforts to find out if they are true or not. Most importantly, though, I expressed to them that I myself have tasted and seen God’s desire for my heart and the communion that he shares with me as His friend.
I do not know what happened in their hearts after our conversation. However, what I do know is that God used that moment to reveal a certain reality of faith to me. The Eucharist is enough. It is that gift in which God gives us everything we need. It is the absurdity of the perfect God humbling Himself to be with us and calling us to Himself saying, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest”(Matt. 11:28).
He longs for us and we must ask ourselves if we long for Him and what is keeping us from giving all as He does. That is one of the reflections that the Eucharistic Revival in the US should engender in us.