The word for this week’s reflection, showing the connection between the mystery of the Incarnation with the mystery of the Eucharist, is love. God is pure love. The Catechism tells us, “God’s very being is love…God himself is an eternal exchange of love…” (CCC #221).
Because of the completeness and wholeness of divine love, everything He does in us and in all of creation is done out of love. Sometimes this is difficult to understand amid so much suffering, but even our suffering is allowed by Him for our greater good out of His deep love for us. Think of a parent saying no to a child who wants a particular thing, or disciplining a child for his or her behavior. Are these actions not motivated by love for the child? He also loves us so much that He gave us free will. Our choices sometimes come with consequences that may cause suffering for ourselves or for others. While He does not like to see us suffer, He will not revoke our free will to prevent it. Suffering should cause us to draw us closer to Him and His love for each of us. No matter how hard we resist, we cannot escape God’s love.
In the midst of humanity’s brokenness and suffering as the result of sinfulness, God became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. This was another act of deep love. He did not have to enter into our human nature, but He chose to out of love. He could have just appeared on the Earth as a grown man and got right to work. However, He wanted to be with us and amongst us in the flesh we ourselves bear. This would be akin to one of us wanting to take on the form of a pig and live in a pigpen because we really love our pigs and the joy they give us, but that’s essentially what God did when He took on human flesh. He wanted to enter humanity fully, so He did it the same way we do – by growing in His mother’s womb and emerging as a completely vulnerable and dependent infant. He was dependent on his mother’s love for Him as she nourished Him in her body and then continued to care for Him as a child. He also depended on His earthly father’s love, as Joseph took his little family to Egypt to avoid his Son being killed by Herod in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents (Mt 2:13-18). Mary and Joseph’s love for their Son, and His returned love for them, provided the foundation for the rest of His life. Out of her love for Him, His mother was with Him to the bitter end. The Holy Family provides this perfect model of familial love for us. We can see by this example, that God not only loved us, but also that, in His human flesh, He needed to be loved for His very survival and development.
Another result of the gift of God’s love in the Incarnate Word is that we have a divine example of how to deal with all of the things we experience as humans. Jesus experienced joy, success, friendship, sadness, hate, persecution, fear, pain, anxiety, anger, and all manner of other things, which we endure every day. The only quality He does not share with us is a sinful nature, but everything else is there. He took all of that on, so that we could turn to Him, as a response of love, in all of our human experiences. He shows us how to be human perfectly. In any situation, we have a friend who knows exactly what we’re going through. What a gift of love!
The Eucharist is also an expression of God’s love for us. Ultimately, Jesus knew His bodily form would need to return to Heaven, but He wanted to remain with us forever in His flesh. He knew that if He left us completely, we would just go back to the desolation that existed before He came. He knows that we continually need Him so, out of love, He instituted a miraculous way to always be present to us by giving us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us “to the end,” even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love… (CCC #1380)
During this miracle, the bread and wine undergo transubstantiation and become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. He is there in the flesh, and He nourishes our bodies and souls, enabling us to persist in this world with His substantive grace. He is the heavenly food that sustains us. Additionally, the way He and Mary were united in the flesh when she carried Him in her womb is the same way we are united with Him in the flesh as we carry Him in our bodies. The love exchanged between the mother and the Son in the flesh can be experienced and enjoyed by us, too. Everything is connected to everything else by divine love.
It is a very difficult thing to love Jesus as much as He loves each of us, but I suspect that if you are reading this, you do love Him. This week, consider how you approach the Sacrament of the Eucharist when you attend Mass. What is your disposition? Are you walking toward Him in love with your entire being and with a spirit of thanksgiving for the love He offers you? Or are you just queuing up in line to mindlessly perform an action with everyone else? Like any loving relationship, we ought to continually renew our focus on our love for the person whom we approach. As Mary gazed with tender love on her divine infant, so we ought to gaze upon Him with that same tender love, as it is the same flesh upon which we gaze. If you do not already have a weekly holy hour, can you make a commitment to sacrifice one hour of your week out of love for the one who loves you? Love necessitates action. What is one small step forward you can take to demonstrate your love for Jesus?