Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mother Teresa on the Eucharist

Here is Blessed Mother Teresa on the Eucharist:

"Our lives have to continuously feed on the Eucharist. If we were not able to see Christ under the appearance of bread, neither would it be possible for us to discover him under the humble appearances of the bruised bodies of the poor" (Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi, p. 115).

This passage is in a section of the book entitled "The Religious Life." Mother Teresa often talked about how the Eucharist (especially in Eucharistic adoration) was the source of strength for herself and her sisters, and she often distinguished what the Missionaries of Charity do from what social workers do. We should all be aware of the crucial relationship between the Eucharist and religious vocations.

However, we would also miss an important lesson that such devotion to the Eucharist is not exclusively for priests and religious sisters and brothers. Mother Teresa makes clear here that there is no dichotomy between faith and justice, between morality and social action, between piety and praxis. She so succinctly links the idea of "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7) to our interactions with others. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan,. The Samaritan did not see a Jewish person, he did not see people from communities in conflict. Instead, he saw a fellow human being, a fellow child of God. He knew he was his brother's keeper. Or think of the story of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus saw a woman who, yes, had harmed her husband, family, and the community by her actions. But he also saw a person who had wounded herself, and he could help heal her, and thereby heal the others.

Faith in the Real Presence is a gift of grace from God. We cannot will ourselves to believe or reason ourselves to "understand" it. We are generally well aware of how difficult it is to believe in the Real Presence because it seems so contrary to what our senses tell us. But we usually are not as aware of how difficult it is to see people as God sees them. We see others as petty, as annoying, as stupid, as hateful, as inferior, as ugly, as cruel. And they probably are. But we don't often see them as ill-used, as miseducated, insecure, as wounded, as lonely, as defeated, as hopeless.

Let us pray for the grace to see Jesus in the Eucharist. And let us pray to see others as God sees them. With St. Paul, let us reflect: "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

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