Father Glenn J. Comandini, STD
As the Jubilee Year of Mercy came to a close on the feast of Christ the King, the enthusiasm of this extraordinary homage to divine mercy seems to have diminished among us, Catholics. What did we receive from observing the Jubilee Year of Mercy in addition to an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis? This writer contends that Catholics should never underestimate the graces bestowed on us through God’s goodness. Now that the Jubilee has come to an end, let us take solace that mercy has not. In fact, the principal fruit of mercy is healing, a grace which all of us seek at some point in our lives. In this series, I would like to point the reader to three areas where this is found: reconciliation, the Eucharist and supportive relationships. Let’s start with the first arena of healing, the sacrament of reconciliation. The names of the individuals in the series are fictitious, to protect their identities, the events are real.
Part Two: Healing through the Eucharist
A few years back, a woman came in to my office and shared that she was feeling empty inside. Her husband was rarely intimate with her. Her children were now in college and busy making their own lives. But what bothered her most was feeling disconnected with God. She asked: “What can I do to fill this emptiness within me? I want to feel close to God like I used to when I was young. Is it too late to reconnect with God?” I told her: “It’s never too late. The best way to reconnect with God is through the Eucharist.” That day, her healing journey began in earnest.
Sometimes, we may feel like we are all alone in the world. Perhaps we just had a dispute with our spouse, or maybe an ugly exchange of words with one of our teens or, we have just learned we have been betrayed by a friend. The reason we feel empty is due, in part, to the fact that, as people, we are relational by nature. Void of meaningful relationships, our lives no longer feel tethered to God. “In such moments, who can we trust? To whom can we turn for comfort?”
Another reason for this feeling of emptiness, which may be sensed all the more because of a wounded relationship, has to do with original sin. The perfect union that once existed between God and man ceased with the fall from grace. The bond of perfect love was severed and where it once united us to our God much like an umbilical cord unites a mother to her unborn child. As we are born separated from God by original sin, even the waters of baptism do not fully remove the void. As we are only at the stage of first-fruits of the redemption, that “emptiness” or “missing link” exists. It is initially sensed by the movement of desire but we, incarnate spirits, can fill this by saying “yes,” to God’s free offer of salvation, which comes to us as the “Call of Love,” in the apex of the soul, normatively in baptism. At that moment, we unite ourselves to God who in turn unites us to God and to each other who are the Church. This initial state of grace, this position of good standing with God can be lost simply by our personal sins, another reason why we need to seek out reconciliation whereby we are justified anew and restored to communion with God through freedom and love.
Finally, the third reason for this feeling of emptiness which goes right to the gut has to do with our natural attraction to evil, to doing what is wrong. Theologians refer to this as “concupiscence.” This, too, is due to original sin, and is one of the consequences of the fall which the redemption has not yet taken away.
Whenever we fall from grace and sin, we immediately sense emptiness once more. This is when Satan tests our faith. He tries to convince us that what we feel is true: we are alone, even abandoned by God. The Tempter tries to have us view this world as the only one. Erroneously, we try to fill the void inside with whatever promises pleasure. This may sound familiar—our attempts to find fulfilment by amassing things of this world. Eventually, no matter how much pleasure we derive from these material items, pleasure will inevitably fade as it yields to unavoidable sense of existential emptiness. And saying “no” to the temptations is not enough to avoid the occasion of sin. We need grace. We need the Eucharist.
After Satan departed from trying to test Jesus, “the angels came and ministered to him.” After Satan departs from tempting us, let us have recourse to the Eucharist, the Bread of Life. In receiving Communion, Jesus will fill the emptiness we may feel with his healing, tangible love. The frequent reception of the Eucharist will remind us that while we may have days when we feel lonely, hurt, abandoned, we are never alone: we have Jesus with us and in us. Like a healing balm, the Eucharist reunites us relationally to our God. That void which we felt earlier is gone because we have allowed God to inhabit that “hole” or “void” etched initially in sin and removed by sacramental grace. The reception of Communion empowers us to forgive those who hurt us, and encourages us to let go of any anger we feel toward certain individuals. It is in this “letting go” that our hearts begin to heal through soothing salve of divine love.
The woman who came to my office brought her heavy heart to confession on Saturday. The next morning, after many years, she finally received the Eucharist at Mass. Having felt tethered anew to her God, she now makes a concerted effort to receive Communion not only at Sunday Mass but during the weekday Masses as often as possible. Little by little, she got her life back on track. The Eucharist brought her from brokenness to wholeness, and I am convinced that it can do the same for you, too.
Father Comandini is the advisor to The Catholic Spirit