22 February 2010

Jesus Continues to Suffer

Saint Paul said in concern about receiving the Eucharist unworthily: “Whosoever shall eat this Bread, or drink the Chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and of the Blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that Bread and drink of the Chalice. For he that eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).

Not only does avoiding the Sacrament of Reconciliation bring great harm to our own souls, but our Lord and Savior continues to suffer because of it. In the beautiful Sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus makes Himself very vulnerable. By being substantially present in what looks like bread and wine, He has entrusted Himself to sinners. He wants to feed us but He wants to feed us worthily by feeding souls who are in a state of grace.

Saint Jean-Marie Vianney had strong words about unworthy Holy Communion: “How many have the temerity to approach the holy table with sins hidden and disguised in Confession. How many do not have that sorrow which the good God wants from them, and preserve a secret willingness to fall back into sin, and do not put forth all their exertions to amend. How many do not avoid the occasions of sin when they can, or preserve enmity in their hearts even at the holy table. If you have ever been in these dispositions in approaching Holy Communion, you have committed a sacrilege.”

Sin of any kind is never good but unworthy Communion inflicts punishment on the Redeemer. The holy Curé d’Ars continues: “It attacks the Person of Jesus Christ Himself, instead of scorning only His Commandments, like other mortal sins. The death of Jesus Christ on Calvary was violent and painful, but at least all of nature seemed to bear witness to His pain. The least sensible of creatures appeared to be affected by it, and thus wishful to share the Savior’s sufferings. Here there is nothing of this: Jesus is insulted, outraged by a vile nothingness, and all keeps silence; everything appears insensible to His humiliations. May not this God of goodness justly complain, as on the tree of the Cross, that He is forsaken? My God, how can a Christian have the heart to go to the holy table with sin in his soul, there to put Jesus Christ to death?”

It is said that nothing in this life pained Saint Jean-Marie Vianney more than unworthy Holy Communion. In fact, he was unable to speak about it without tears. He certainly made great efforts to help souls avoid such a sin by making himself available daily for long hours in the confessional.

On Good Friday of 2005, the Stations of the Cross were conducted at the Colosseum by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Pope John Paul II was unable to do it because of his failing health. The Stations were not only carried out by Cardinal Ratzinger that year, but they were also written by him. Here’s what he wrote and proclaimed at the Station where Jesus falls for a third time: “What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in His own Church? How often is the holy Sacrament of His Presence abused, how often must He enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that He is there! How often is His Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where He waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in His Passion. His betrayal by His disciples, their unworthy reception of His Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces His Heart. We can only call to Him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison, Lord, save us.”

What does heaven have to say about this? In 1846 in La Salette, France, two children had a vision of our Blessed Lady. She said to them: “Come to me my dear children. Do not be afraid. I have come to tell you something of great importance.” The two visionaries, Melanie Mathieu and Maximin Giraud, claimed that our Blessed Mother entrusted each of them with a secret. They guarded those secrets for five years, after which they wrote down their secrets for Pope Pius IX. It was several years later when the Holy Father was asked about the secrets of La Salette in a private audience with the Missionaries of La Salette. The Holy Father responded by saying: “You want to know the secrets of La Salette? Here are the secrets of La Salette: if you do not do penance you will die.”

In 1879, one of the two visionaries, Melanie, published her secret in a brochure. Here’s a small piece of what the Mother of God said: “Melanie… woe to those dedicated to God who by their unfaithfulness and their wicked lives are crucifying my Son again.”

As dangerous as all of this sounds, and it is, let us remember that God is merciful; may we show our love for Jesus by visiting Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where He mercifully and lovingly waits for us.