by Sr. Nirmala MC
Talk by Sr. Nirmala, Superior General of Missionaries of Charity, in Washington, D.C. Sept. 2004
Dear Shepherds of the People of God and all my Sisters, the Women Religious of United States, and all my brothers and sisters,
I am deeply grateful to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States of America for giving me this privilege of professing together with you today my simple faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist as well as sharing with yon my humble presentation on the them, “Love for the Holy Eucharist for Holy Mass and for Our Lord Present in the Blessed Sacrament”
May the Heart of Jesus
in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar
be praised, adored and loved
with grateful affection, at every moment,
in all Tabernacles of the world,
even till the end of time.
There is a story of a baby lion that was lost in the forest and was found by a shepherd who brought it home and let it grow together with his lambs. One day, a lion passed by and saw this little lion among the lambs who was eating grass and bleating. The lion said to the little cub, “What are you doing here? Why are you eating grass and bleating like a lamb? Don’t you know you are not a lamb, you are a lion?” The cub began to bleat more. Then the lion took the little cub to a small lake nearby and said, “Look at your reflection in the water and then look at me and know who you are!” The cub did what was told and was surprised to see that he looked the same as the lion. Then the lion said, “Yes, you are a lion! You are not meant to eat grass and bleat, but to eat flesh and drink blood and roar! Then the lion asked the cub to roar and taught him how to do so, with a few attempts the baby lion was able to roar and it knew that it was really a lion.
We human beings too, who are created by God our Father in His image and likeness to love and to be loved now and for all eternity are meant to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lamb of God and be filled with His Spirit and ‘roar’ with love like the Lion of Judah, Jesus His only begotten Son, and know that we too are the sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and of every human person and of whole creation.
Eucharist is the food given by Our Father in Heaven for us His children. Jesus says. “‘I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread will live forever. And the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in Him.” (Jn. 6: 51, 56)
What a Mystery of Mysteries! Mystery of Love! The Eucharist is the splendour of God’s incredible passion for humanity! Jesus, the Risen Lord of Glory in Heaven is truly present today on earth in the humble appearance of bread and wine as man’s food and drink for immortality, a life of eternal love! Eucharist is the Sacrament of God’s tenderness for man, Sacrament of love, Sacrament of the Presence of Jesus among us – Emmanuel, the Word made flesh who was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
It is He “who was in the world,” as St. John says “and the world was made by Him, yet the world knew Him not. His own received Him not. But to all who received Him. He gave the power to become the children of God!” And they “saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (Jn 1: 10-12, 14)
Jesus in the Eucharist is the same Jesus who was baptized at the Jordan by John the Baptist, upon whom the Spirit of God descended as a dove from Heaven and the Father testified, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”
It is He who turned water into wine, multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed the multitude, called Himself the Light of the world, asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. It is He who proclaimed. “If anyone thirsts, let Him come to Me and drink.” Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the same Jesus who calmed the raging sea, caused the miraculous catch of fish, preached the Good News to the poor, healed the sick, freed the captives, raised the dead, forgave sins, and befriended the sinners and the outcasts. He is the Lamb of God who sacrificed His life on the Cross out of love for us to take away our sins and give us eternal life. It is He who rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.
Jesus loves us so much that He intensely desires to remain with us on earth till the end of time. For ‘His joy is to be with the children of men’. Therefore, in the ingenuity of His unfathomable love He invented entirely a new way of remaining with us on earth in the appearance of Bread and Wine as our food and drink on our way Home to God our Father. Therefore, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood as memorial of His Death and Resurrection and commanded His apostles to celebrate it until He comes again. Thus He made them the Priests of the new covenant to perpetuate and make present on our altars the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross till the end of time, and multiply His Eucharistic Presence in all corners of the earth, so that all who desire may be able to approach Him easily. (CCC: 1323. 1337)
Eucharist is the Sacrament of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross and of His presence; He comes to us on our altars at the Eucharistic Sacrifice by the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the utterance of the words of Christ by the priest, which Christ uttered at the Last Supper over the Bread and Wine. The bread changes into the Body of Christ and wine changes into the Blood of Christ, though the appearance of the bread and wine remains.
What has happened? The great miracle of transubstantiation has happened. The substance of the bread and wine has disappeared and the substance of the Body and of Blood of Christ the Risen Lord who is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, has taken its place. The Body of Christ now looks like bread, tastes, smells, feels and weighs like bread but it is not bread. It is the Body of Christ that hung upon the Cross. The precious Blood of Christ looks like wine, tastes, smells, feel and weighs like wine, but it is not wine, it is the Blood of Christ which He shed for us on the Cross. Jesus who is in Heaven now, is really, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. It is the mystery of faith in the presence of which our human reason is totally baffled, our senses are thoroughly deceived.
The Church proclaims her faith in the mystery of the Eucharist when she sings with St. Thomas Aquinas:
“Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
masked by these bare shadows,
shape and nothing more,
See, Lord al Thy service low lies here
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.”
Jesus lies before us in His hidden majesty because our senses are not equipped to tolerate the dazzling light of His Glory. Therefore not to scare us away, but to draw us to His Heart gently He comes to us in such humble appearance. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament draws with gentle power of His love one and all, be they young or old, rich or poor, learned or not learned, saints or sinners, sick or healthy, men, women and children of all nations, cultures and religions. He is there for all thirsting to love each one and to be loved by each one. Those who come to Him find peace, love and joy.
That is why the little shepherd boy Blessed Francisco of Fatima was able to spend hours consoling His hidden Jesus in the Eucharist, for many sins in the world.
There is a story of a four-year-old boy who was missing from his home one morning. After a desperate search his mother found him in the Church sitting on the floor in the sanctuary before the tabernacle rolling with laughter. When the mother asked, “My son, what are you doing here?” He replied, “Mom, I am telling Jesus the story of Alibaba and forty thieves.” Jesus surely must have enjoyed the story of this little one.
A youth from Calcutta writes, “I do not yet understand what interested me most in the Church but I began to come regularly and spend hours and hours sitting before the Blessed Sacrament. Even though I was a Hindu at that time, I knew something about the Catholic Faith. I began to think why the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative Sisters sit before the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day. This made me pray for an increase of faith in the Blessed Sacrament. It was after that I began to find myself talking to Jesus like I talk to any of my friends. I have passed hours and hours gazing at the Blessed Sacrament motionless without knowing what is going on all around me.” This young man is a candidate in a religious Congregation, now, aspiring for priesthood.
Jesus loves to play ‘hide and seek’ with us. If we sincerely seek Him with faith and love we will find Him. When we have found Him, we have found the Greatest Treasure! But we cannot hold Him for ourselves. We have to share Him with others. The more we share His love with other the more we will have. The more we hold Him for ourselves He will escape and leave us desolate and dry.
One mentally sick Hindu lady who loved Jesus came to our chapel in Calcutta to pray when we were having Eucharistic Adoration. At the end of the Adoration when the Blessed Sacrament was reposed and the Tabernacle was locked, she exclaimed: “Do you think, you can lock Him up there, He will come out, He is God!” What a beautiful profession of faith in the Divinity of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament from a supposed-to-be mentally sick person. It is only the Spirit of God who revealed that to her. What He hides from the learned and clever He reveals to the little ones.
Jesus in the Eucharist is thirsting to love and comfort us by His constant loving presence to us, direct and instruct us by sending us the Holy Spirit, feed and nourish us with His own precious Body and Blood and transform us into Himself and give us eternal life. He also wants to send us the Holy Spirit to unite us in the bond of love as one family. He wants to do to us and for us and our world what He has done during His earthly life for the people of His time. He thirsts that we come to Him with faith and trust in His unfailing love for us.
Jesus with His human Heart dwells in the Eucharist and thirsts for our love. When St. Margaret Mary was before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus showed her His Heart and said,
“Behold, this Heart, which has so loved men that it has spared nothing to the point of spending itself, and being consumed to prove its love to them. And in return I receive from most men only ingratitude because of their irreverence and sacrileges and coldness and scorn they have for me in this Sacrament of Love. But what offends me most is that hearts consecrated to me act in this way.”
Then He asked for the celebration of the feast of His Sacred Heart, by receiving Holy Communion on that day to make reparation to His Heart to atone for all the indignities it has received ever since it has been exposed on the Altar. And He promised to shower His blessings on those who honour His Sacred Heart in this way and lead others to do so.
Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament revealed His Merciful Heart to St. Faustina asking her that we offer to His Heavenly Father His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, for the atonement of our sins and sins of the whole world. He is thirsting to pour out His Mercy on us.
The more we know how much Jesus thirsts to love and to be loved by us in the Eucharist the more we will love Him and come flying to Him. Love for the Eucharist is the fruit of faith. It is the gift of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit by which our interior eyes are opened and we recognize who is in the Blessed Sacrament and like John the beloved disciple cry out, “It is the Lord!” and our hearts are drawn to Him in deep intimacy.
We can pray for this gift with faith and perseverance and prepare to receive it by contemplating the thirst of God for us in the various mysteries of the life of Christ with the Heart of Mary, His Mother. The Rosary is an excellent way for this Heart of Mary, the Mother and the first tabernacle of Jesus is the key to the understanding and love for the Eucharist. She who carried Him in the tabernacle of her womb for nine months and pondered Him deep in her Immaculate and pierced heart all her life including when she was at the foot of the Cross when He cried out, “Woman, behold your Son”, “I Thirst”, “It is finished”, can reveal Him and His infinite thirst to us her children. She who holds Jesus in her heart loved and adored Him from the moment of conception while on earth and continues adoring Him even today in Heaven as well as in all tabernacles of the world can communicate to us her own love and tenderness for Jesus in the Eucharist and her spirit of profound adoration if we ask her to do so.
The more we know the miracles of God’s love contained in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the more we will love Jesus in this Sacrament of love. The more we come to know through study, contemplation and prayer, the teachings of the Catholic Church on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the more we will love Jesus in this Sacrament. The more we love Him, the more we want to know Him more deeply and intimately. The writings and examples of the Saints and Martyrs devoted to Jesus in the Eucharist become most desirable to us. Our beans begin to burn with love for the Eucharist. The simple faith of the people in the goodness and power of Jesus in the Eucharist strengthens our own faith.
Once our hearts are wounded with the love of Jesus, we find no respite anywhere from he vehemence of His love but in His presence in the Eucharist.
“The Presence and Form of the Beloved is the only cure for our afflictions of love.” says St. John of the Cross. Eucharist becomes our ecstasy, our blessed vision of God this side of eternity. Jesus, the Heart of God and Heart of Man in the Eucharist becomes our home, our resting place.
We long for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, Holy Communion and to spend as much time as possible in the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist allowing Him to love us and telling Him of our love for Him, as our Holy Father John Paul II asks us, Women Religious to do every day, and also adoring Him, praising and thanking Him and interceding for the needs of the world. When there is no possibility of being in His Sacramental Presence, we carry Him in the tabernacles of our hearts and minds and commune with Him in the silence of our hearts, unceasingly calling on His Name or making countless Spiritual Communions.
Our Mother, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who loved Jesus passionately loved to sing:
“0 Jesus, Jesus dearest Lord,
forgive me if I say,
for very love Thy Sacred Name,
a thousand times a day.
1 love thee, so I know not
how my transports to control,
Thy love is like a burning fire
within my very soul.”
St. Teresa of Avila a used to tell her Sisters. “Let us remain lovingly with Jesus and not waste the hour that follows Communion. It is an excellent time to put before God the matters that concern our soul.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola used to make his thanksgiving on his knees for two hours.
Cure of Ars used to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with such fervour and devotion that the people believed that he was seeing Jesus face to face.
St. Francis of Assisi used to spend often entire nights before the altar, with such love and humility that those who saw him in adoration were deeply moved.
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini was so absorbed in the adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that she was totally oblivious of the beautiful flower arrangements her sisters had made to decorate the altar on the feast of the Sacred Heart. She said. “I saw only one flower, Jesus, no other.”
Greatest suffering John of the Cross had during his imprisonment was that of not being able to celebrate Mass or receive Holy Communion for nine months.
Jesus lived His Passion in St. Padre Pio, especially during the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass and He used him to bring: countless sinners back to God.
Love of our Holy Father John Paul II for the Eucharist is incomparable. We can see him like Christ and with Christ on the Cross offering sacrifice of his life for the salvation and holiness of every human person for the unity of all Christians and of all mankind that we may all be one as Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Him.
Our Mother. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta had tremendous faith in and love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. When she received her First Holy Communion at the age of five and half, Jesus filled her tender heart with His own thirst for souls and later on to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross for souls became the aim of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious Congregation she was called to found. Many of the communications of Jesus to Mother regarding the foundation of our Society were also during Holy Mass and Holy Communion, and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
She had boundless confidence in the power of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Even before starting the Congregation Mother asked the Archbishop of Calcutta, “How many must we be, to have the Blessed Sacrament in our midst - the work that we will have to do, will be impossible without the continual grace from the Tabernacle. He will have to do everything - we will have just to follow.”
The way Mother made profound genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament, we knew that she knew who was in the Blessed Sacrament and loved Him with passion. Daily Eucharistic Sacrifice and Adoration were her very life. She participated in them with great love and enthusiasm. During Holy Communion, Mother remained silent and very recollected in deep prayer. Even when Mother came at midnight or after midnight from her travels, in the morning, Mother was in the chapel for prayer and Holy Mass, (rising at 4:40 A.M.) During the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we could see Mother deeply absorbed praying the Rosary.
Jesus in the Eucharist has the central place in our life as Missionaries of Charity. When Jesus called Mother to found the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity He had expressed to her during Holy Communion what He wanted the Missionaries of Charity to be - “Victims of His love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so very united to Him as to radiate His love on souls.” He wanted us to be “His fire of love” amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children. He wanted us to be, ‘Covered with His Poverty of the Cross, Obedience of the Cross, and Charity of the Cross.” Our Mother says. “We must imbibe the Spirit of Holy Mass, which is one of total surrender and offering. Our life must be woven with the Eucharist.”
When we love Jesus in the Eucharist and realize the great love He has for us we want to share His sufferings to return love for love. Our love for Eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the Passion, Death and the Resurrection of Jesus calls us to be on the Cross with Jesus to be broken and given to others that they may have life and have it abundantly. It also calls us to stand at the foot of the Cross of our suffering brothers and sisters on the Calvaries of today. All our works of love among the poorest of the poor are the prolongation of the Eucharistic Sacrifice we have offered. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we bring the sufferings of all our brothers and sisters who live in poverty and hunger, in pain and darkness to unite with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. In Holy Communion we receive Jesus with all those who know and Jove Him and in the name of all those who do not know, do not love, not dare to know or love. In our Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament we not only bring the innocent and holy to the divine presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for the preservation of innocence and prevention of sin and increase of holiness but also the sin-sick and suffering humanity to the healing, sustaining and transforming grace of Jesus radiating from the Eucharist. Our Mother says, “The closer we understand the living bread. the fervent will be our adoration.” She further says. “Appreciate the gift of being with Jesus 24 hours. Let not your going in and out of the Chapel be just going in and out, but a love-meeting with the living God to whom you belong in a special way - His Spouse to the full meaning of the word.”
In our wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor we bring to them the gift of Jesus, His love, peace and joy through whatever we are able to do to them in their needs.
As far as possible in all our homes for the poor we have a chapel attached where those who wish are free to come to the Eucharistic presence of Jesus to receive His peace, healing love and joy.
In the houses of our Contemplative Branch, we have whole-day Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament either in the Parish Church or a Church designated for this purpose or in our own convents where people are free to come and spend time in the presence of Eucharistic Lord.
Our young volunteers from all over the world who come to share our works of love for the poorest of the poor join us for Mass in the morning and after serving the poorest of the poor the whole day, come back in the evening to join us in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Many of our volunteers have found vocation to priesthood and religious life and also to married life while working with us.
Mother used to call our convents ‘tabernacles’. She was quite confident that even after she goes home to God, Jesus in the Eucharist in all these tabernacles would see to the continuation and growth of the work He had entrusted to her. And this is exactly what He is doing now!
Love for the Eucharist fills us with deep love and gratitude for the gift of priesthood in the Church. It also makes us realize the value and the need of Priests and the need to pray for priestly vocation and holiness of Priests.
Our Mother had great love for Priests. She saw Jesus in them. She also saw the need for the priests to be holy, because of the great dignity and responsibility of their priestly vocation. Therefore, to promote priestly holiness and spiritual renewal in the Church, Mother started the work of linking the bishops and priests, mainly diocesan priests of the whole world with the sisters of various religious Congregations as ‘Veronica Intercessors’ for spiritual support of prayer and sacrifices.
For the same purpose, Mother also wanted the revival of the Corpus Christi Movement for priests, especially diocesan priests who wish to share in the Charism God has given to the Church through our Mother and the Missionaries of Charity.
It is a great joy to see the growth of devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament all over the world. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who is leading the people to a deeper understanding of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and such response of love and faith in Him. It is so good to see so many Churches here in the U.S.A. where there is perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
One morning, as I came out of a subway station in New York City, I found myself in front of one such Church, the Church of St. John the Baptist, where the Blessed Sacrament Fathers of St. Peter Julian Eymard live and have whole-day Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament daily. Some of my Sisters had told me about this with so much joy. So with great excitement I went inside the Church and began to look for Jesus, suddenly I found Him majestically exposed in the big monstrance high up above the altar. I knelt in His presence with a heart filled with joy. Soon it was time for me to leave. I did not want to leave. But I had to tear myself away from His Eucharistic Presence as we were on our way to Italian Embassy. On the way I was thinking how beautiful it was to have such a Church in the center of the city with open doors to welcome all to the Presence of Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. What a wonderful apostolate it would be just to tell the people along the way, especially the poor, the sick, the lonely, the rejected, the young and the old, “Go to Jesus, He is waiting for you in that Church with open arms. He loves you. Tell Him all your problems, difficulties and needs. He has the power to help you. He will give you peace.”
On our way back again, we had to walk the same way. I was severely tempted to enter the Church once again, and I was fighting with all my might. But when we reached the point where we had to turn towards the subway station I felt such a pull from the Blessed Sacrament to come in, that I could not resist, and I told ST. Francita, my companion, “Let us go in.” As we were climbing the steps of the Church, a poor young man with long hair and shabby clothes, most probably a drug addict asked me for a quarter for coffee. I just smiled and went inside wondering whether I should give him money or coffee. As I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, I felt everything was dark; Jesus was no more there for me. He had jumped out from the monstrance and was sitting on the steps outside the Church. If I do not give Him what He is asking, my kneeling here to adore Him is a mockery. I immediately decided to give him coffee. At that very moment a lady tapped on my shoulder and asked to what Congregation we belonged. I said, “Missionaries of Charity, Sisters of Mother Teresa.” She gave me a dollar and said, “This is for coffee.” We were taken aback! We took the young man with us and bought him coffee and some snacks. I could see heaven in his eye and in the eyes of Sr. Francita as she banded it to him.
I was so filled with joy with this experience that I could hardly sleep that night. Mother was with us for breakfast the next morning. When I shared this experience with her, Mother said, “This is our Charism! Jesus whom we love and adore in the Blessed Sacrament, we love and serve in the poorest of the poor. The more tender is our love for Jesus, the Bread of Life in the Eucharist the more tender will be our love for the hungry Christ in the poor. Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist to satiate our hunger and thirst for God. He comes to us in the poorest of the poor as hungry one, the thirsty one, the naked one, the homeless one, the sick and the dying one, unloved and unwanted one, to give us the opportunity to satiate His thirst for our love.”
Little later that morning in front of my very eyes, an envelope was pushed in from under our entrance door by some one in the street. It contained an anonymous donation of 90 dollars. The day before we had spent 85 cents on that young man, and today Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament sent us 90 dollars - more than a hundredfold.
St. John Chrysostom says. “Do you want to honour Christ’s Body? Then do not scorn Him in His nakedness, nor honour him here in the Church with silken garments while neglecting Him outside where He is cold and naked. For He who said. “This is my Body.” and made it so by His words also said, “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. What good is it if the Eucharistic table groans under the weight of golden chalices when Christ is dying of hunger? First, fill Him when He is hungry, then use the means you have left to adorn His table.”
Let us ask Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament to give us her heart so pure, so beautiful, so Immaculate, so full of love and humility that we may be able to love and adore Jesus the Bread of Life in the Eucharist as she does, and see His face in the faces of our suffering brothers and sisters in whose disguise He is living, perhaps in our own homes, or walking in our streets, lying in hospitals or parks or abandoned bui1dings, and do to them with love what needs to be done and be blessed a hundredfold with His own peace, love and joy now and for all eternity, for He has said, “Whatever you did to the least of my brethren you did it to Me.”
Thank you. May God bless us all!
Sr. M. Nirmala MC