The presence of Jesus is violent. Yes, violently peaceful. The terms seem contradictory, but allow me to present an example of what I mean. Jesus, oftentimes during his ministry, would be walking the streets of various towns, encountering sin and suffering, even demons. At those encounters sin was often forgiven, sufferings were often healed, and demons were driven out. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” as St. John wrote of Christ in his gospel.1 Jesus’ very presence was cause for the demons to shudder. At the same time, the crippled and the lame were healed, and those afflicted with evil would forcefully experience peace. “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Jesus told the Apostles.2 But where today can we Christians find that Presence in which healing and peace may be found? As Catholics, we experience the primary place of encounter with Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink,” Jesus told the multitude following him.3 At each Mass, we witness the power of the Holy Spirit descending upon the bread and wine, through the authority granted to the priest at his blessing by the Word of God, and changing the substance (the “is-ness”) of that bread and wine into Jesus Christ – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – his whole Person. There, the resurrected Lord is presented as the only true sacrifice for our sins, that same sacrifice by which sin and death were ultimately overcome in the Cross and Resurrection. In that Sacrament of the Eucharistic bread and wine, we encounter the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And so we sing at each Mass following the consecration of bread and wine the “Mystery of Faith”: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you [Jesus] come again.”
Oftentimes, I am reminded of the “violence” of Christ’s presence when I am before him in Eucharistic Adoration; that is, when I am praying in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I’ll often go before him in prayer, perhaps when I am most anxious, in pain or under tremendous stress, and there I experience his peace – not mine. I won’t even know how to pray about my feelings and thoughts, and yet his peace overtakes my own heart, calming the storm on which I have my eyes fixed too much. I suddenly receive a strength beyond anything that I could possibly conjure up myself, without any explanation. Perhaps, there are times I even suddenly experience an enlightenment to my thoughts, a clarity, or a light shown into my conscience – an increased understanding – all while sitting before the Most Blessed Sacrament in silence. In the Eucharist, I truly encounter the Jesus that is “the same yesterday, today and forever.”4
St. Thomas Aquinas, it is said, used to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and lay his head on the tabernacle – the containment where consecrated hosts are kept to take to the sick. This he would do when he was unsure of how to meditate on a subject and did not have an answer to a question he was pondering; for he wrote volumes upon volumes of theological works in quest to serve Jesus, his Lord, and the Church. While resting before Christ in the Eucharist, he would receive clarity on whatever he was enquiring the Lord about. This “Angelic Doctor” of the Church, as he is often called, had one of the greatest minds in the history of the world, and yet he was only filled with Truth by his encounter first with the Source of Truth and peace – Jesus Christ.
In that Blessed Sacrament, we find our peace, our hope, our strength. Christ himself has condescended to bread and wine in order to become one with us, his Body (the Church). He gives to us by that Blessed Sacrament his very flesh and blood – the matter of this world to which he united himself in becoming human, and by which he overcame sin, suffering and death and their power disarmed. By it, he presents himself to our own bodies and souls, to feed us with his saving Person – human and divine. What a grace-filled opportunity we have by making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament for an encounter with Christ. In his presence, Jesus will give strength to our souls, and peace to our minds. We can bring to Jesus our prayers for others and our thanksgivings for his love and goodness. Here at St. Anthony, Eucharistic Adoration is on Thursdays and First Fridays. Other parishes have similar times or even have Perpetual Adoration chapels, in which access can be granted at any time of day or night.
“In the [Sacred] Host is your power; it will defend you.” – Jesus to St. Maria Faustina5
1 John 1:5 NRSVCE
2 Matt. 28:20
3 John 6:54-55
4 Heb. 13:8
5 Faustina. 2005. Divine mercy in my soul: the diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge, Mass: Marian Press. (616).