• August 11, 2009

To love as the Eucharist loves

This article was written by Rev Thierry de Roucy in the French Magzine of Heart’s Home “D’un Point-Cœur à l’autre” #22 pub­lished in March 1998.

During our last stay in Bangkok, we met a young Thai boy who often comes to visit Heart’s Home. His name is Pii Pop and he is about 25 years old. He’s a cat­e­chumen and will be bap­tized at Easter. He kindly makes his car avail­able to the Heart’s Home mis­sion­aries when they need to help some­body in the neigh­bor­hood. One evening Pii Pop drove us back to the rec­tory where we were staying. His English is quite broken, so we could only speak a little. I asked him: “How are you preparing for bap­tism?” I was expecting him to speak about his cat­e­chism classes or the way his pro­gress was fol­lowed. Rather, his answer reached the heart of the mys­tery. He answered: “I try to learn what love means. It’s such a long path!” This struck me.

“It’s a long path!” When we tell a young person who wants to know about Heart’s Home that the mis­sion simply con­sists of loving, he usu­ally feels like it will be easy. Our expla­na­tion reas­sures him. We could have asked of him much more dif­fi­cult things, such as knowl­edge in medicine, in agri­cul­ture, or edu­ca­tion. But the only require­ment is love. During the training period, the mis­sionary is often torn between two feel­ings. Either he feels like he will master the mis­sion or he is ter­ri­fied that he will fail, espe­cially after hearing tes­ti­monies of former mis­sion­aries: “I will never manage, I won’t be patient enough, I won’t be able to give so much of myself”. At this point, he is over­whelmed. This becomes a very spe­cial time of grace: the mis­sion seems to be impos­sible - and indeed it is! But he has under­stood that even if the mis­sion is impos­sible for him, nothing is impos­sible for God!

The Eucharist has a cen­tral place in the Heart’s Home mis­sion. To stress its impor­tance, we place the taber­nacle in a beau­tiful, cen­tral place in our home. The pres­ence of the Blessed Sacrament is a require­ment, without it the com­mu­nity’s life will always remain a bit con­fused. Every day the mis­sion­aries receive com­mu­nion. If they don’t spend one hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the day seems empty and mean­ing­less. They don’t see it as a duty, but as a neces­sity, a need of their heart. This reminds of a story I was told by Father Daniel-Ange, a friend of mine. The chil­dren were asked to tell why they go to com­mu­nion. Frederick, 8 years old answered: “I go because I have to.” Catechists were shocked. The other chil­dren did not get it. I remain alone with the child and I try to explain him what it is all about. “No, it is not my par­ents, nor the cat­e­chists, nor the priest. But (he was about to cry) it is Him (putting his hands on his heart) that asks for it." Then he added, a little bit more relaxed: “You know, he is inviting me insisting in.” Sometimes, when they com­plain about being so busy and tired with trying to face all the needs of their friends, I tease them, asking: “Why not reduce the prayer time, if there is so much to do in the neigh­bor­hood... What do you think about that?” Disconcerted, they look at each other and answer: “Fa­ther, who will teach us how to love, if not the Eucharist? Where will we get our strength back?” Some who started their training period con­fused about the pur­pose of ado­ra­tion, now answer bluntly: “If you ask us to pray less we will never make it!” And if we talk about taking the Blessed Sacrament away from one of our houses, if the area is not safe enough, I can tell you that their answer is no less sharp! They would rather watch over it night and day with weapons rather than have it taken away from them!

To love as the Eucharist loves

To learn how to love was the pur­pose Pii Pop gave to his time as a cat­e­chumen. I am sure that the more time goes by, the more it will be dif­fi­cult for him. If you are inter­ested in “carving” you will be able to improve your knowl­edge and your skills with some training, but it seems that as far as love is con­cerned, the more you try to put the Lord’s com­mand­ments into prac­tice the more it seems impos­sible. More than ever, you wonder what love means and more specif­i­cally what is Christian love.

In my mind, I cannot stop pon­dering these ques­tions; the answers give meaning to my life. As a Christian and a priest my only mis­sion is to love and to help people to love God. When I read the Gospels, the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Death of Jesus teach me a lot: “There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends...” “Un­less the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies...”. But con­cerning love, nothing helps me more than the con­tem­pla­tion of the Eucharist. To love is to be hidden, to be given up and to be con­sumed. The Blessed Sacrament is the clearest expres­sion of Christ’s teaching about love. We can read the Beatitudes, the Gospel of John’s Farewells Speech or the saints’ lives but nothing explains better what love is than the little host alone on the altar or in our hand... It does not chal­lenge any­body, it begs and it respects our lib­erty. It does not shout; its lan­guage is the silence of pri­vacy. It only offers itself and it is at any­body’s dis­posal.

I know a priest who used to give this penance: “Go and spend a little time in front of the Blessed Sacrament!” Maybe there is no better penance. Sin can be defined as a lack of love. We all know that our vir­tuous efforts are not enough to keep us from offense. To be released from our sins, we must let our­selves be touched by love, struck by Him, over­come by Him. The Eucharist must imprint itself upon us, its image must be upon us. Indeed, the Eucharist is the path of the Church, the path of our com­mu­ni­ties, the path of each one of us. The Holy Spirit is working on iden­ti­fying this Bread, which is the Church, with the Blessed Sacrament. He wants our flesh to become like the Eucharist. This is what we ask during Mass at the Epiclesis. A quiet and humble love

Love wanted to live sub­stan­tially among us without either noise or row. Its only word is its pres­ence. Its only mes­sage is its pres­ence. And its pres­ence is so hidden, so dis­crete, and so humble that it is almost absent. The epitome of its pres­ence looks like an absence! The epitome of love looks like pas­sivity! The Word of the Father has the face of silence! How deep is the mys­tery of Faith!

All of this is dis­con­certing, but we want to follow. And since love looks so much like silence and humility, we know that our foun­da­tion should not be set up with bustle but with dis­cre­tion and sim­plicity. The infant Jesus arrived in our world by night, in a small and unknown barn, unex­pected by people. So we too must slip into where God sends us without any fuss. We should avoid adver­tise­ment, we need to fear noisy announce­ment. It does not look like the pres­ence of the One we want to exem­plify. He will not be pre­sent in any other method of evan­ge­liza­tion other than Incarnation.

However, this silence is a struggle. It is so easy to doubt that God could express Himself in the dark­ness of Bethlehem and in the monotony of Nazareth. Faith must always drive us back to the con­tem­pla­tion of Mary’s Child in order to under­stand that the best way to announce the Gospel is love rather than bril­liant feats or rousing strate­gies. Faith should bring us back to con­tem­plating the Blessed Sacrament pre­sent in so many churches all around the world. Through con­tem­pla­tion we may learn that our beauty does not depend on our efforts, but on the quality of our ado­ra­tion and the inten­sity of our com­pas­sion.

Love offers itself

When Christ gives his dis­ci­ples the bread saying: “This is my body, take it and eat it!” When He gives them the wine saying: “This is my blood, take it and drink it!”; it is the accom­plish­ment of the mys­tery of the Cross. At Golgotha, Christ is a gen­uine offering. The Son puts every­thing in the Father’s hands and every­thing is given for humanity’s sake. He keeps nothing for Himself. According to St.Paul, Christ became empti­ness, and His des­tiny is ful­filled by His death.

The life of a Christian is an offered life. In Christ, nothing belongs to him; every­thing is given to the Father. This is reality, a bap­tismal reality. However, it requires one’s whole life to incar­nate this gift. All that is ours must become a gift. Each minute can be offered. In a way, our life is a long Mass in which silence and words, offer­tory and tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion follow one anoth­er―a Mass that everyone cel­e­brates as a victim and as a priest. In the Heart’s Home com­mit­ment, this Eucharistic aspect of our lives is apparent. In front of misery, in front of our neigh­bors’ poverty, each vol­un­teer is sud­denly aware of his own wealth, from the inner­most trea­sures to the most outer ones, and he deeply feels like he has to give. “I have to free myself from this or from that”... and even­tu­ally, “I have to offer my life”. Grace reveals to the mis­sionary that now, giving it is the only way for him to become richer, the only way for him to pos­sess this pearl that will quench his tremen­dous thirst, the only path to unify his life. Nothing can dis­tract him any­more. His entire self will lean towards unity because every­thing is offered. But this offering will extend well beyond the dimen­sions of the mis­sionary. Before he had never had so much to put on the Paten: lives, end­less suf­fering, screams and large smiles. He walks down the streets as a priest walks in the rows to col­lect the bread offering. He knows that every­thing must be offered to create the New World... nothing can remain here below: nei­ther an ounce of mud, nor a begin­ning of sin, nor a piece of poverty. Everything has to return to heaven. As if they were divine ragmen, our mis­sion­aries seek in the slums and in their friends’s hearts what they will offer each day. Their mis­sion is a priestly one. It is a princely mis­sion. That is why they would never trade it for any other mis­sion.

A love that gives itself as food to be eaten.

In Capernaum, Jesus’ audi­ence had been scared, and under­stand­ably so. Didn’t he say that he was “the bread” given to his own people as food? No other master before had given him­self to be eaten by his dis­ci­ples. During the Last Supper, He says to the apos­tles: “This is My body, take it and eat it.” The evan­ge­lists do not say it but they must have been amazed. And he was not only saying He was bread, He was giving Himself to be eaten. He was there, in the apos­tles’ hands.

Soon after, the lives of His dis­ci­ples would become bread for others. But at that moment, it was too early to realize that; they were too aston­ished at seeing Him give Himself. However, before long one would be cru­ci­fied upside down, another beheaded, yet others would exhaust them­selves serving people, would teach people until exhaus­tion, would catch leprosy treating the sick... all of them would become bread in which the Holy Spirit would con­tinue to pro­nounce the same word He had spoken through the One: “Take it and eat it!”. The saints are offered as bread for this world. Their per­fec­tion is mea­sured by their exhaus­tion: the less they are, the more they are. This is also the way to mea­sure the mis­sionary’s gifts. This path is tiring, and yet, do we not tire our­selves out doing unworthy things? We can com­plain about the dif­fi­culty of this path, but it remains our source of joy, a source of new full­ness because it is the only path that leads to our des­tiny. Indeed, the gift of self is the ful­fill­ment of all voca­tions: the mothers have to be food for their chil­dren, the teacher for his dis­ci­ples, the mis­sionary for the people in the neigh­bor­hood, the doctor for his patients. Discerning our voca­tion is not about knowing if one has to give one­self, but rather it is about knowing whom we are called by God to feed. To love as the Eucharist loves is to love as God loves; it is to let your­self be food for others, in giving your heart, your strength, your time, and the ones you love. It is giving your life so that others may live, and giving all this love with joy and thanks­giving.

Back to top