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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

THE FATHER'S GIFT: The Holy Eucharist!

by Susan Fox

IN THE YEAR THAT KING UZZI’AH DIED, Isaiah had a vision of God on His holy throne. Overcome with reverence, he prayed, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 5-6)

I find his response to seeing God most comforting as I often feel the same way.

I have spent my entire life in the Presence of God in the Holy Eucharist, the One whom Isaiah prophesized when he said “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name
Immanuel (which means God is with us).”

Providentially, God provided a means for Isaiah to bear the vision. He sent a seraphim, a holy angel, with a burning coal taken from the altar, “And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.”  And God has provided the same recourse to Catholics in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We have a means to forgiveness that will enable us to approach God in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

My pastor today pointed out that in the Catholic Church, God is always present with us under the appearance of Bread and Wine. In the Holy Mass (where the word Christ’s Mass comes from), the priest prays the words of consecration over the bread and wine, and the Holy Spirit responds by turning these gifts into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ really present among us.  Just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary and made her with Child (as Isaiah foretold), the Holy Spirit turns the bread and wine into the Real Presence of Jesus.  Jesus promised us He would be with us until the end of time, and He has kept His promise.

 “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56)

This was no symbolic talk. The disciples heard it and started muttering among themselves that this was hard to accept.  But Jesus didn’t water down the message. He simply pointed out that no one can come to Him unless it be granted to him by the Father.

This has been given to me by the Father. I was four years old when my family was involved in a car accident in New Orleans in 1957.  I remember the details distinctly  -- a rare gift as many people don’t remember things that happened at that early an age.

I remember the comic book I was looking at (I couldn’t read) in the back seat. I remember looking over the seat and seeing a car coming straight for us (it was a head on collision) and I remember my parents didn’t see it because they were looking at each other with great love. It was a lovely last memory of my parents’ life together, one I treasure.

When the accident occurred I was protected by the back seat, but my parents had not used the seat belts on our new car, as it was not something they were used to. By the time I climbed out of the back seat, I saw Mom was knocked out in the front seat (glass emerged from her eye decades later resulting from this accident) and my father emerged from the car with blood on his throat.

I was taken from the car vomiting, and screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” They didn’t let me go to him, and he died three days later in the hospital. But when I cried out, my Father in heaven heard me and answered. He so loved the world, He sent His only Son, and I was about to be the beneficiary of that Gift foretold by Isaiah in a very personal way. 

I WAS A CATHOLIC CHILD, baptized and loved, but really my faith was not visible to me before that time.  I didn’t know Jesus.  But when my father died, my mother and grandmother took me to the hospital chapel. It was a Catholic hospital, so the Body of Christ under the appearance of bread was stored in a golden tabernacle in the hospital chapel. As Isaiah prophesized, His Name was Immanuel. God was waiting for me. He was there in a real physical way after the accident that took my father’s life.

Mom said, “There is Jesus in that tabernacle. Pray for your Daddy.”

I prayed. I told Him I wouldn’t pray.

Now today whenever I can I go back there, and pray again, but with great joy and gratitude for so much was given to me through that tragic circumstance.  It was April 28, 1957, but it was Christmas in a little girl’s life. God sat with me.  It was as if Christ on the cross had just said, “It is finished.” And then He was immediately by my side when I grieved my father’s death.

This great gift of His presence in the Eucharist has remained with me my entire life. And I tell you about it now, so that you can know He is available to you in the same way at any time in whatever troubling circumstances you find in your life.

We often think of the Christmas story as one of joyful anticipation and fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Son. This it is. But there is also a lot of suffering in the Nativity of Jesus. He chose the circumstances of His own birth, and He did not make it easy on Himself. He wasn’t born to a rich family. There was no room at the inn, so He was born in a stable, described as a cave. When King Herod heard of His birth, he  saw a threat to his throne. So he ordered the execution of all the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem. This was a terrible atrocity.  “Rachel weeps for her children, and they are no more.”

His family became refugees in Egypt as his father Joseph was warned to flee the persecution.

But I remember my son James at one week old. We took him to a restaurant with a thousand tiny lights. He marveled at this for some time, and then promptly fell asleep. He had also marveled at his father’s face on the morning he was first born. His Dad was tired, having been up all night, wore a hospital gown and puffy blue hat, but he was rocking James and singing, “Do dee do do.” Real intelligent stuff.
Just out of the womb, the baby stared at Larry’s face very intently.

I think Jesus picked the circumstances of His birth so He could stare into the loving faces of Mary and Joseph, see the humble shepherds when they came to pay their respects, and accept the homage of kings. Jesus was always a sucker for the little people. He – King of Kings, Lord of Lords -- chose to become a little One Himself.

And that’s how I found Him, under the appearance of simple bread, waiting to comfort me when my father died.