Recently I learned a friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He fought the cancer for 6 months. He even had a bone marrow transplant. But it was unsuccessful and his doctors concluded there’s nothing further that can be done for him. He’s 44, with a wife, and two young children.
As I ponder this news, I wonder, where is God? Where is love in the midst of this tragedy? Where is the Real Presence of the Divine?
Many faith traditions believe that the body and blood of Christ is physically present in the communion bread and wine we eat and drink. The Real Presence of Christ, we’re told, exists in these ordinary table foods as God allows himself to be consumed by us, so we may be consumed by him…in love.
The Real Presence of Christ is intended to transform, change, and give us the strength and power to be the living Presence of God’s love in the world. If that’s true, then is it enough to simply receive the Eucharist or is there something more to this holy communion? Must we become the Eucharist—the continuing action of Christ’s love poured out through us for others?
So who is Eucharist for my friend? How is he being consumed by God’s love? How is Christ present to him in the midst of his suffering?
Maybe the Real Presence is found in his loving wife through her silent, loving vigil by his side. Perhaps, the love of God is fleshed in his co-workers who have vowed to carry on his business after his passing as an enduring legacy to him. And the Presence continues through his children who will bring love and joy into the world long after their father has gone to the other side.
Perhaps finding God in ourselves and in others is the great task we’ve been given. And as we experience that Divine Presence and allow ourselves to be consumed by love, we then become the hands and feet of God in the world carrying out our creative purpose as human beings.
All Creation, we are told, reveals God’s Divine Presence. Dogs and cats, the wild deer we spot alongside rural roadways, birds and untamed turkeys enrich our lives with their majestic beauty gifted to us by the Creator. Is it possible God engraves the universe, you and me, the mountains and valleys, the rocks and trees with his love? And if so, how does that change our worldview?
Suddenly everything is pregnant with God. Everything is filled with the lifeblood of the Creator’s loving Spirit. And experiencing this ordinary miracle is as simple as becoming aware of it, waking up and seeing life through our third eye—our mind connected with our heart.
For those who believe in the Eucharist as the Real Presence of God, receiving it then is only half of the story. The other half of this sacred ritual is to truly become the Real Presence of Christ in the world through our daily acts of concern and compassion—a kind word, a warm hug, a comforting smile—all reveal the incarnation of love.
And whether we consume the bread and wine or not, or believe in its mystery, perhaps when we act in a Spirit of love toward ourselves, others, and all of creation we experience communion, the common bond of being the Real Presence of Divine Love in the world poured out for each other as we journey life’s path side-by-side.
—brian j plachta
I never got that kiss with Teresa. But as I reflect on that long-ago night, I realize Sister Carmella shared two pieces of wisdom I’ll never forget: to leave room for Jesus and the healing power of a smile.