One day I had the chance to spend some time with my dad before heading off to an event in Minnesota. We had coffee and some lunch together, bundled up against the cold weather, and visited a few bookstores, just enjoying one another’s company. He is always trying to give me his sweaters and gloves, and often if I attempt to pay for food or even a whimsical purchase, he beats me to it, insisting that I put my money away for another time.
That night at dinner, we talked about our family, our careers, which brands of beer we like, and whatever else came up. We don’t have to have an agenda about what we discuss, and we don’t panic if the conversation has a lull. In fact, there really aren’t any limitations or places we don’t feel free to address. We talk about the difficulties of the past, poor decisions, concerns with money or health, and the future. This time was just what I needed. Time spent with my dad is time well spent.
Receiving and Giving. When I sit in church waiting for Mass to begin, I enjoy the quiet of the sanctuary, and right before me is Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament. I don’t have to have an agenda when I come into Jesus’ presence. We sit and talk about things that are happening in my life, and there are no areas that are off-limits. Jesus has permission to ask me anything he wishes, and he has given me permission to ask anything of him. I have been invited into the beauty of the family of God, and that means that he, on a much grander scale than my earthly father, wants to bless me and provide for me.
God cares about my whimsical purchases, my financial concerns, my physical needs, and my greatest longings. He has not left me on my own to figure out how to make everything work; rather, I am given the opportunity to receive.
This word “receive” is really at the heart of our relationship. From my earthly father, I have received physical life, financial assistance, idiosyncratic tendencies, and vocal similarities and expressions. In my walk with God as Father, I have received the opportunity to live in a way that is more authentic than I could have previously imagined. I really can live heroically, resting upon the heritage of the family and our propensity for greatness in Christ. I am treated with blessings and favor, knowing that the closer I come to love and imitate the Eucharist, the more I will look like and act like the man I am called to be.
It isn’t always easy to let someone else provide for you, but the willingness to receive all that Jesus gives to us in the Eucharist provides us with the strength to become a gift to others. In other words, we must receive from the Lord in order to give back to those around us. This gift of ourselves to others around us is in some unique way an actual gift back to God in that he identifies himself with the small and weak, the thirsty and needy. We are not meant to be a storehouse as much as a conduit, having grace flowing in us in order that it might flow out from us to those around us.
Relationships are often difficult this side of eternity. In our families we don’t regularly say the right things or do what needs to be done in a timely fashion or even forgive quickly when wronged. We often make a habit of picking at the festering wounds of those closest to us rather than being the healing balm that we should and could be. Jesus is inviting us, through our reception of the Eucharist, to truly begin to offer healing and forgiveness to those around us. We receive Christ in order to give Christ to those within our reach.
You Bless Me, Lord! Just as it would be strange to look at my dad during an awkward silence and begin to read from a paper that listed phrases to use when the conversation lulled, so it would be in our time with Jesus. Our relationship with Christ is neither superficial nor artificial. He is waiting to speak the word to us that we really need to hear. He is willing to listen to everything that is cluttering our brains, and he is even ready to carry the weight of our concerns when we are ready to relinquish them.
I think my dad wants to bless me; he wants to be in my life and hear my stories, and he would love to offer any advice I’d be willing to take. God wants to bless you today; he wants to be in your life and desires to hear your stories. He would love to offer you advice on anything you would be willing to share with him. Why? Because he is truly our Father, and he longs for us to receive the many gifts he continues to pour out upon us.
How to Think Big
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” You’ve heard this truth before; it’s in the Catechism and the documents of Vatican II. And you agree with it! But how deeply and consistently do you experience the reality of this gift in your everyday life? Probably not enough, as Chris Padgett writes in Why the Eucharist Matters for Your Life:
I can imagine that most of us, on more occasions than we would like to admit, have gone through the motions on a Sunday morning during the celebration of the Eucharist, thinking only of the many things that are going on in our lives. However, even in the times at Mass when we are more concerned with a football game or a work-related issue, Jesus still willingly and entirely comes to embrace us.
In this book of reflections on the Eucharist, Padgett, a popular speaker and author who teaches at Franciscan University of Steubenville, has one central message: Think big! Discover the connection between receiving Jesus at Mass, experiencing his living presence throughout the day, and becoming his witnesses in the world.
We might look like mere mortals, average Joes and Janes, but because of Christ, we get to be the transforming presence of Christ to those who will never walk into a church. . . . I pray that we stun and cause wonder and awe to many by our willingness to reflect and witness to Christ in us. God knows our limitations, but he is all about doing the miraculous, even with people like you and me.