1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan tells a moving story in his book, “Five Loaves & Two Fish”:
There was an old man named Jim who would go to church every day at noon for just a few minutes, and then he would leave. The sacristan was very curious about Jim’s routine, and one day, he asked Jim, “Why do you come here every day?”
“I come to pray,” Jim answered.
“That’s impossible! What prayer can you say in two minutes?”
“I’m an old and ignorant man. I pray to God in my own way.”
“But what do you say?”
“I say, ‘Jesus, here I am. It’s Jim.’ And then I leave.”
After some years, Jim became ill and had to go to the hospital, where he was admitted to the ward for the poor. When it seemed that Jim was dying, a priest, a nurse, and a religious sister stood next to his bed.
The priest ask him, “Jim, tell us how it is that from the day you came to this ward everything changed for the better. How is it that the patients here have become happier, more content and friendlier?”
“I don’t know. When I could walk around, I would try and visit everyone. I greeted them, small-talked with them. When I couldn’t get out of bed, I called everyone over to me to make them laugh, to make them happy. With Jim, they are always happy.”
“But why are you happy?”
“Well, aren’t you happy when you receive a visitor,” replied Jim to the priest’s question.
“Of course. But we’ve never seen anyone come visit you.”
“When I came here, I asked you for two chairs. One was for you, Father, and one was reserved for my guest.”
“But what guest?”
“I used to go to church to visit Jesus every day at noon. But when I couldn’t do that anymore, Jesus came here.”
“Jesus comes to visit you? What does he say?”
“He says, ‘Jim, here I am. It’s Jesus.’”
Before dying, Jim smiled and gestured with his hand toward the chair next to his bed, as if inviting someone to sit down. He smiled for the last time and closed his eyes.
In our busy lives, we are so distracted when we come to Mass that our spirit, which lies deep within our soul, doesn’t recognize Jesus, not for lack of desire or ability, but for lack of preparation and cultivation. We aren’t satisfied (cf Lk 9:17) because we forgot that our soul was hungry for the living God. We don’t see the abundance of God’s grace and activity in our lives because we don’t know how to see with spiritual eyes the work of God all around us.
We’ve lost the sense of the mysterious because we want to first understand a logical explanation before we believe.
How happy Jesus would be if we learned how to recognize him in the breaking of the bread (cf Lk 24:31), to savor the moment of encounter, to relax in the peace of his presence, to worship the majesty of his humble appearance in the species of bread and wine. If we could make him happy just to recognize him, then I think our lives would also be happier because we would be compelled to give away what we had received. Then, we would have become what we have consumed.
Br. John-Marmion Villa, BSC