The Word Among Us

June 2006 Issue

With Eyes Wide Open

Encountering the Lord 
in Adoration

Which of the following people actually encountered Jesus when they came to their church and sat before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration?

The young boy who stopped in on his way home from school just to say, "Hi," to Jesus. The man who slipped into the back of the church and repented over and over again for the way he had sinned against the Lord. The teenager who said the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be three times.The woman who said four rosaries, one for each of the twenty mysteries. The married couple who spent a full hour gazing at Jesus together. The priest who did nothing but ask Jesus for guidance and wisdom as he tried to lead his parish.

If you answered all of the above, then you're right. Any time that we go out of our way to visit Jesus, we will be blessed. Of course, not all of these kinds of visits are the same, and they don't all yield the same results. After all, we're talking about a relationship here, and in any relationship there are degrees of intimacy.

If we simply sit before the Lord for an hour, we will be blessed. We will feel good about what we have done, and we will leave our time with him strengthened. Yet this approach to adoration has its limits. By preparing ourselves to meet the Lord and by having some knowledge of how the Holy Spirit works, we can increase our chances of receiving more from the Lord and of being changed more into his likeness. So let's look at a few ways we can approach adoration to see how the Spirit works in each of them.

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus. Look to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

The idea of fixing our eyes on Jesus is so simple that even a young child can understand it. As you kneel or sit before the Lord, call to mind your favorite images of Jesus. Some like to see him with his Blessed Mother, perhaps in their home at Nazareth or at the wedding feast of Cana. Others enjoy seeing Jesus at the Transfiguration, radiant with God's glory as he talks with Moses and Elijah. Still others prefer to see him feeding the five thousand or healing the hemorrhaging woman. Many people hold two images of Jesus dear to their hearts: the crucified Christ and the risen Lord seated at the right hand of his Father in glory.

When we begin to fix our eyes on one of these images and focus our attention on Jesus in the Sacrament, a couple of things begin to happen. First, the distractions of normal life, with all of its responsibilities, problems, and demands, fade away. Second, we begin to feel as if we have entered into heaven. We feel as if we too are "seated" with Jesus "in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 2:6). We get a taste of what it will be like when there will be no more suffering or pain, when we will be reunited with all of our loved ones, and when every hope and dream of ours will finally be fulfilled.

Listening for His Voice. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him. (Ephesians 1:17)

As we fix our eyes on Jesus in this way, something marvelous begins to happen. The Holy Spirit begins to open our minds and fill us with spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9). We begin to grasp more about Jesus: what he did for us, how much he loves us, how merciful he is, and how much he rejoices with us and suffers with us.

Words from Scripture that previously had little or no meaning begin to come alive. They enlighten our minds and urge us to be holy. They convince us that we have God's strength to help us and to make us more fruitful for Jesus.

Then comes the best part. Whatever we learn and understand moves us to love Jesus more. When we grasp who he is and what he has done for us, our only response is to say, "Jesus, I love you." We fall in love with him all over again, and his love in turn calms our fears, heals our wounds, and energizes us with hope and confidence. Some who find this intimacy have even felt Jesus putting his arms around them and holding them close to his heart.

Overcoming the World. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Another work of the Holy Spirit that frequently occurs as we adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is directed toward the obstacles that block our way to God. St. Paul calls these obstacles "strongholds" that are raised up "against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

As we kneel before the Lord, we begin to hear the Holy Spirit gently tell us that perfection cannot be united with imperfection. He tells us that in Christ we have been made holy, and that we should now live as the holy man or woman he has made us to be. Suddenly, we find God's mercy and power working in us, helping us to take these strongholds captive and demolish them one by one, over time. We find God's grace working in us, convincing us that we can overcome everything that separates us from him.

As we are moved to repentance and confession, something inside of us—yes, it is the Holy Spirit—infuses us with a divine conviction and power. We leave our time of adoration convinced that we can stop sinning, and we find a new and greater ability to say "no" to the temptations that assail us in the course of our day.

Building the Kingdom of God. 
I pray that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)

Like every parent, our heavenly Father has the perfect happiness of every human being in the forefront of his mind. Today, as happy as he is that we have come and spent time in Jesus' presence, he also gives us a taste of his sadness. If we look at Jesus long enough and closely enough, we can see him weeping over all the pain and suffering in the world. We can see him mourning over all the sin. We can see him weeping over those who reject him or who have never heard of him.

The pain that we see in the broken heart of Jesus moves us to take up his call. Adoration before Jesus moves us to say: "Here am I; send me" (Isaiah 6:8). It convinces us that our life with Jesus is about personal holiness and about being his light to everyone we meet.

The Holy Spirit wants to use our time of adoration to open our eyes to the needs of the poor, to the despair of the uneducated, to the loneliness of the unevangelized, and to the suffering and fears of the ill, the forgotten, and the homeless. The Spirit wants us to love Jesus so much that we feel compelled to serve him.

With Opened Eyes. To those who have never sat before the Lord in this way, eucharistic adoration can seem like a waste of time. And yet to those who have tasted the goodness of the Lord, adoration has the power to move us closer to Jesus.

Think about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman described in John 4. At the very beginning of their conversation, Jesus told her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water" (John 4:10). In a similar manner, eucharistic adoration is not about our giving Jesus a drink by giving up our time to be with him as much as it is about our coming to Jesus and asking him for a drink. It's about presenting our needs to the Lord and asking him to fill us up with heavenly grace and heavenly power and heavenly wisdom. It's about receiving all that we need to live in him and for him in this world.

The more we fix our eyes on Jesus, the more we will appreciate how much he goes out of his way to reach us. When we come and meet him in adoration, he shows us—just as he showed the Samaritan woman—that he wants to be our Lord, our Savior, and our friend. As our eyes are opened, we will take his advice and ask him for a drink of his living water. And we will never be the same again.