June 26, 2019

Food for the Soul

I recently read an article about a man named Michael, a professional pianist, who had three of his fingers crushed when a car door accidentally slammed shut on his hand one Sunday morning as he and his family were getting into their car on their way to Mass. Michael said, “All three fingers had been “flattened — and my ring finger and middle finger were about twice their normal width — and my ring finger had been noticeably bent into the shape of the doorjamb.”

Michael and his wife were determined to head to the emergency room, but first they decided to take the time to pray. They prayed that, “God would heal his hand and make sure that he could continue to play the piano”. But much to his wife’s surprise, as soon as they finished praying, Michael said, “We’re going to Mass anyway.” His wife said, “Michael, what is wrong with you? We have to get you to the hospital. Your fingers are broken!” He told her that “I am convinced that we need to go to Mass regardless.”

They wrapped Michael’s hand, drove to the church and they attended Mass. When it came time for Communion, they stood in line till they arrived in front of their pastor. Michael said, “My pastor looked down with concern and curiosity at my red-and-white-towel-wrapped hand, as if to say, ‘What happened to you?’ I sheepishly asked, ‘Is it okay if I kneel, Father?’ He replied, ‘sure’. I knelt and received Communion. When I stood, I noticed a vague sensation of warmth, almost as if I had consumed the Precious Blood. Yet, I had only received the Sacred Host. On my way back to the pew, I kept my head bowed and eyes down. I assure you it was not out of piety, but rather out of mild embarrassment, not wanting to meet eyes with anyone who might be glaring at me. When I arrived at our pew, I slid over and asked my wife for some clean tissues for my wounds. As I was taking the cloth towel and old paper towel off my hand, I leaned toward her, — and I noticed her jaw drop and eyes grow wide. She exclaimed in a whisper, ‘Oh my goodness, look at your hand!’ I looked down, and to my amazement, my fingers were perfectly back into shape. When I looked over at her again, she said, ‘Look at the blood. It’s disappearing!’ Again, I looked down, and the blood that had collected under the surface of my skin appeared to be receding back into my fingers before our eyes, to the point where it was barely visible anymore. I thought, ‘This is a miracle!’ Then I thought, ‘If my fingers are really healed, I should be able to bend them without pain.’ I hesitated very briefly and then bent them. There was no pain.” (© 2003 New Oxford Review, Inc. Provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org)

I think that we all tend to take the Eucharist for granted and we tend to forget just who it is that we are meeting and receiving in the Eucharist. In the Gospels, we see Jesus healing many people; some were healed when Jesus touched them, others were healed simply by the power of His voice, and one woman was healed by simply touching the hem of His garment. But when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we are blessed with more than just His touch, or His voice, or the hem of His garment. We are literally receiving Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity, into our bodies.

Life has many issues. Every single one of us has some problem in life or some cross to bear. And I am not saying that when we receive the Eucharist we have to kneel, or that by receiving Jesus in Holy Communion we will be healed of all of our illnesses or that Jesus will wipe away all of our problems; but I am saying that by receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, and by inviting Him into our hearts, we will experience the blessings of His abiding presence in our lives. And when we meet Jesus in the Eucharist, He will supply us with the strength that we need to either overcome or to endure whatever it is that we will face on our life’s journey.

This weekend the Church celebrates the feast of Christ the King. This feast day offers us an opportunity to meditate on what it means to proclaim Jesus as King and what it means to receive King Jesus in Holy Communion.

We all have some preconceived ideas of what it means to be king and these ideas can cause some confusion especially when we apply the title, king, to Christ. Remember, Jesus came to this earth poor. He lived the life of a poor man. He lived his life as a servant to others and He said, “As I have done so you must do.” (John 13:15). And Jesus said that, “The greatest of all must be the servant of all.” (Matthew 23:11)

On this feast day of Christ the King, we need to pause and think about who it is that we are meeting when we receive Holy Communion; for when we consume the Eucharist, we are actually receiving King Jesus into our very bodies. Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a gift, and it is the most powerful gift imaginable because it is a gift of His very self. There is power in the Eucharist, and we have to ask ourselves, how does the power of Christ’s presence in my life influence my behavior? And what demands does it place on how I live my life?

In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus gave us our instructions on how we are to live. He said, “I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) And Jesus gave us the nourishment that we will need on our journey in life.

“The Church obliges us to attend Mass, not because Jesus needs us, but, like all good mothers, the Church knows we need the Bread of Life to live in a world that Jesus himself told us would hate us, because it hates Him.

We need to be strengthened for our journey. Food for the soul and food for the body; this is what He gives us in the Mass.” (The Healing Power of the Eucharist/Miracles Do Happen, Briege McKenna O.S.C., St. Martin’s Press)

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Written by
Deacon Donald Cox

REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

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Written by Deacon Donald Cox