First Published in 1868.
TAN Books and Publishers
On the Love of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament
ONE DAY two men who were disputing about the possession of a piece of land came to the, Emperor Otho that he might decide on the affair in question; each of them said: "The land belongs to me." And what do you think the Emperor did, when he found himself unable to settle the dispute? He gave to the one, out of his own purse, as much money as the piece of land was worth, and to the other the land itself, and thus satisfied both.
A similar, but far more wonderful act of liberality took place at Jerusalem eighteen centuries ago [now nineteen]. This happened in the following manner: Our Divine Redeemer having lived on this earth more than thirty years and the time having come for Him to leave it, there arose, as it were, a dispute between Heaven and earth. The Angels wished to have their Lord and their God with them in Heaven again, after He had been for so long a time with men on earth. Men, on the other hand, especially the Apostles, desired to detain their Divine Master, Jesus Christ, with them on earth. They felt very sad when He told them that the time had come for Him to leave them. Now, how did our sweet Lord act in order to settle this dispute? He found out a means to satisfy both men and Angels. He satisfied the Angels by ascending to Heaven; He satisfied men by remaining invisibly with them in the Blessed Sacrament and by giving power to the Apostles and their lawful successors to change bread into His Body and wine into His Blood.
What could have induced Our Dear Lord, Christian soul, to stay with us on earth in the Blessed Sacrament? Was it to gain honor? Alas, Our Good Lord receives the same treatment in the Blessed Eucharist which He received during the thirty-three years that He lived upon earth! When upon earth, He was made light of, and it was said of Him: "Is He not the son of a carpenter?" "Why do you listen to Him?" said the Pharisees. "Do you not see that He has a devil, that He is possessed, that He is a wine-drinker and a friend of sinners?" They bound Him, scourged Him, crowned Him with thorns, and at last making Him carry His Own Cross, they crucified Him. Such was the honor which Jesus Christ received when living among men! And has He not been treated in the same manner in His Sacrament, from that time to the present day? Instead of being honored by all men, as He deserves, He is dishonored and insulted. Some do not think of Him for weeks together; others walk carelessly into the church, almost like men without faith, and make their genuflexion before Him as if they wished to mock Him; others behave in church as if they were in their own houses. In many churches there is not even a lamp kept burning; and how often has it happened that the consecrated Hosts have been trodden under foot or thrown into the fire by heretics, Jews and other bad men?
Such has been the treatment He has met with-----contempt, mockery and insult, or coldness and indifference towards His Divine Majesty! Certainly the expectation of being honored could not have induced Him to remain with us! What then induced Him to stay with us in the Holy Eucharist? Was it to seek or to increase His own happiness? By no means. His happiness is so great that it cannot be increased. He has risen from the dead; He is glorified; He sits at the right hand of God the Father and has all power in Heaven and on earth. The Angels serve Him; men are His subjects, whom He will judge and reward according to their deserts; the devils tremble at His presence; every knee must bend before Him, of those that are in Heaven, on earth and under the earth, in Purgatory and in Hell. What then is wanting to His happiness? Nothing! Since, therefore, Our Lord cannot become happier by remaining with us and since He does not receive due honor among us, what, I ask once more, could have induced Him to abide here so long, to remain on earth for eighteen hundred years, yea, even until the end of the world, to be present in the Blessed Sacrament in every place, in every parish church in America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, in the isles of the sea, and even sometimes in the midst of the ocean itself? Ah, Christian soul, there was no other motive than love, the great, the excessive love of Jesus Christ towards men!
Yes, it was love, love alone, nothing but love, which induced Jesus, our Redeemer, to remain among us in the Blessed Sacrament. O Jesus, O most sweet Jesus, hidden under the sacramental species, give me now such love and humility, that I may be able lovingly to speak of this invention of boundless love, that all who hear of it, may begin to love Thee in reality.
O Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, and our dear Mother; O all ye holy Angels, who, by your adoration in our churches, make up for the little love which your God and our Saviour receives from men, obtain for us the grace to comprehend a little the love of Jesus Christ in the most Holy Sacrament.
In order to conceive in some measure the love of Jesus Christ in this wonderful Sacrament, let us consider first the time at which He gave Himself to us as our food and drink. Jesus might have instituted this Sacrament when, in the twelfth year of His age, He traveled to Jerusalem, or at the wedding in Cana, or when He was thirty years old and began to teach publicly, or He might have instituted it after His Resurrection. But He chose, for the time of its institution, the last moment of His earthly career.
Why did He wait so long? Why did He not institute it sooner or later? Why not after His Resurrection? Why just at the moment when He was about to take leave of the Apostles and quit the earth? He instituted this Sacrament at the last moment of His life in order that men might the better see the excess of His love. Do you ask how this is? To make it clearer, imagine a father who has in store costly presents of gold and jewels which he intends to give to his children in order to show them how much he loves them. What time do you think this father will choose for bestowing these gifts as being best calculated to make a deep impression on them? He will wait until he is on his deathbed, and then he will give them, that they may be the last memorials of his love.
Behold, our Divine Saviour thought and acted in the very same manner. He thought, I have already given men so many proofs of My love towards them: I have created them; I preserve their lives; I have become man-----for their sake I became a child; I have lived among them for more than thirty years; I am yet to suffer and die for them on the Cross and to re-open Heaven for them; what can I do more for them? Ah! I can make them one more present; I will give them a most precious gift; I will give them all that I have, so that they may not be able to charge Me with having done less for them than I might have done. I will give them Myself as a legacy; I will give them My Divinity and My Humanity, My Body and My Soul, Myself, entirely and without reserve. I will make them this present at the last moment of My life, at a time when men are accustomed to bequeath to those whom they love that which they value the most.
At the very moment when they are seeking to betray Me, at the very moment when the Pharisees and Jews are planning to remove Me out of the world, I will give Myself to men on earth to be their food and drink, to abide with them: in the Blessed Sacrament in a wonderful manner, to be always in their midst, by dwelling in their churches. Instead of withdrawing My love from them on account of their ingratitude, I will manifest it to them the more.
Wonderful manner! Who could ever have imagined that God would go so far in His love for ungrateful men as to give them His Own Flesh and Blood as the food of their souls? What man or Angel would ever have conceived such a thing? And supposing it had occurred to some man or Angel to wish that God might do so, who would have dared to express such a wish or to ask such a thing of God? Would not the thought have been immediately banished from the mind as sacrilegious? Now, what the Angels could never have conceived nor men dared to ask, the immense love of God has given us unasked.
Hence Our Lord was right indeed to say to His Disciples when they became sad on account of His having told them of His approaching departure from them: "Let not your hearts be troubled; I will not leave you orphans." A good mother on her deathbed says to her weeping children: "Dear children, I must now die and leave you. I recommend you to God and to the protection of your Blessed Mother Mary. Avoid sin and act always as good children, that I may be so happy as to see you again in the other world."
But Jesus does not speak thus to His Apostles. He says: "You need not be sad because I am about to leave the world. I will remain always with you in My most Holy Sacrament. I will give you a power than which there is no greater in Heaven or on earth, that of changing bread into My Body and wine into My Blood. In virtue of this power, you can always have Me with you. You need only pronounce the words of Consecration over the bread and wine, and in that very moment I will be with you and you will hold Me in your hands. O Love! O Love of God toward us! O Jesus, Thou lovest us too much! Thou couldst not endure that we should be left alone in this world; and that even death might not be able to separate Thee from us, Thou didst leave Thyself to us as our food in the Blessed Sacrament.
Secondly, in order that we may see the love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist still more clearly, let us consider with a lively faith Whom we have in our midst. Dear Christian, consider [that] if Jesus Christ had left a Saint or an Angel with us in His stead after His death, or if He had given us His Own Mother to remain with us and keep us company, would it not have been a very great proof of His love towards us? But He has left neither Saint nor Angel, not even His Own Mother, for it was too little for His love. He Himself would be ever with us.
Yes, indeed, the good God, the holy and merciful God is among us-----the Almighty God who created us and the whole world out of nothing and who still continues to preserve us. That same God is in our tabernacles Who saved Noah from the deluge; Who gave manna from Heaven to the Jews; Who, amid lightning and thunder, gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai; Who, at Babylon, delivered the three youths from the flames of the burning furnace; Who saved the life of Daniel in the den of lions.
That same Jesus is with us in our churches Who at His birth was laid on straw and adored by the Magi, Who fled into Egypt, Who was sought for by the Blessed Virgin and found in the Temple, Who changed water into wine, Who restored sight to the blind, made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. Beloved Christian, you esteem Simeon happy in having been permitted to take the Infant Jesus in his arms; and were you to receive a grace like him, no doubt you would exclaim: "Now dost Thou dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word, in peace: because my eyes have seen Thy salvation."
You consider Zacheus happy because Our Lord vouchsafed to enter his house and eat with him; you deem St. John happy because he rested on the breast of our Saviour at the Last Supper; and, above all, you regard St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary so very happy because they nourished and supported Our Dear Lord. But are you not as happy as they? Are you not even happier? You do not hold Our Lord in your arms as Simeon did, but you receive Him into your heart in Holy Communion; you do not rest on the bosom of Our Lord like St. John, but the Saviour Himself rests in your heart after Holy Communion; you do not nurse and support Our Lord like St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, but you have a still greater happiness, for the Saviour Himself nourishes you and gives Himself to you as your food. O Love! O Love! O who can understand the love of God for men!
What would you say if a shepherd suffered himself to be slain in order to save his sheep? What would you say if, in those times of horrible famine which history here and there records, when the cravings of hunger silenced the voice of nature and men fed on each other's flesh, a king had loved a beggar so much, or a lord his servant, as to give himself as food in order to save the poor sufferer from starvation? Do you think that any shepherd or king or lord could really be found who would act thus? Certainly not. Again, a mother's love is proverbial, and mothers are often found who love their offspring so much that they will deprive themselves of a morsel of their scanty bread to give it to their hungry children, and yet it has sometimes happened that even mothers have devoured their own infants in time of famine.
Now, while no shepherd loves his sheep so much as to give his own life for them; while no king ever loved a beggar so much as to suffer, for his sake, the loss of life or limb; while even a mother can grow cruel towards the fruit of her womb, Jesus, our God and our King, has loved us so much as to give Himself to us whole and entire. His Flesh and Blood, His Humanity and Divinity really and substantially.
"I am the good Shepherd," says Jesus; "a good shepherd gives his life for his sheep." He seems to say to us: "I give My life for you, each day, at each Holy Mass, at each Holy Communion. I am the God of Supreme Wisdom, but I cannot find a more adequate pledge of My love. I am Almighty, but My omnipotence is not able to do anything greater; I am love itself, but I cannot give you anything more consoling!" It is so, sweet Lord, I acknowledge Thy infinite love, and full of amazement at Thy immense charity, I find no better words to express my wonder than those of Thy Saints: "Lord, Thou hast become foolish from love towards us." (St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi). "He has given Heaven; He has given earth; He has given His Kingdom; He has given Himself-----what more has He to give? O my God! (Allow me to say it) How prodigal art Thou of Thyself!" (St. Augustine).
Thirdly, an especial mark of the love of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament towards us is the manner in which He gives Himself to us. He is with us, but under strange forms. Now, someone may say: "Would not the love of Jesus Christ have seemed greater if He had remained with us visibly, so that we might have seen Him and conversed with Him as one friend does with another?" No, dear Christian, it would not have seemed so great. Just because He conceals Himself from our eyes, He gives a new proof of His love and shows that He thinks of us all, of sinners as well as of the just.
"How so?" you ask. I will tell you how. First, then, with regard to sinners, Jesus renders them a great favor by concealing Himself. You know that the best remedy for weak eyes is to exclude the light. We cannot look at a very bright object without our eyes being dazzled. None of us could look steadily at the sun at noon; if we should do so, we would become blind. We read in Holy Scripture that Moses once conversed with God on a mountain and that afterwards, when he came down to the Jews, his countenance was so radiant with light that they were unable to look upon him, and he was obliged to put a veil over his face when he spoke to them.
Suppose now, beloved Christian, that Jesus Christ were to manifest Himself on our altars in His heavenly splendor and glory, and one yet at enmity with God should come into the church; how would he feel? Would he not be overwhelmed with awe and terror? Yea, a mortal agony would seize the poor wretch at the sight of Jesus Christ. When Adam and Eve had sinned, they heard the voice of the Lord, Who was walking about in Paradise, and they hid themselves from the Lord in the midst of the garden. The mere sight of an offended God was insupportable to them. Cain, too, acted in the same manner after having killed his brother. "And Cain fled from the face of the Lord." Oh, it is terrible for man to appear before God with a conscience laden with sin!
If in our day Jesus Christ were to show Himself openly, sinners would flee from the church in order to avoid the angry countenance of their Judge. If one conscious of sin should dare to remain and brave the displeasure of his offended Lord, his heart would die within him before the angry glance of those eyes which are ''as a flame of fire." One single indignant look that Philip II, king of Spain, cast upon two of his courtiers, who behaved irreverently in church, was enough to drive one of them out of his senses and to kill the other. How then could a sinner endure the eye of Jesus Christ?
We may judge, in some measure, from what took place when the Bethsamites looked upon the Ark of the Covenant with irreverent curiosity. More than fifty thousand were instantly punished with death for having gazed at the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord in which the Ten Commandments of God were preserved. "And the men of Bethsames said: 'Who can stand before the face of the Lord, of that Holy God?' " Who then does not see that it is a great grace and benefit for us and all sinners that Jesus Christ should veil Himself from our view under the appearances of bread and wine? Oh, how considerate and amiable is the heart of Jesus Christ! He does not wish openly to meet with one who is His sworn enemy and who, on that account, deserves nothing else but His wrath and vengeance. He works one of His greatest miracles and draws near to him without being seen. He keeps Himself hidden under the poor veil of bread that the sinner may not tremble and fear before His majesty and brightness, but may approach Him with confidence to ask the pardon of his sins and grace not to relapse into them again.
But not only to sinners does Jesus Christ show special love by concealing Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, but also to the just. These, indeed, would not, like sinners, be conscience-stricken at the sight of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, but they would nevertheless be almost beside themselves with amazement, and instead of entertaining a confident and childlike love and affection for Him, they would feel an excessive and oppressive fear of Him. As soon as the Queen of Saba saw Solomon sitting on his throne in all his regal splendor, she became breathless and
fainted away. This was natural. That which is too splendid repels rather than attracts, and while an ordinary brightness pleases the eye, an intense, excessive brightness dazzles and blinds it.
Oh, what would happen if the Son of God were to appear on the altar in His Divine Majesty, surrounded with heavenly light and glory? What eye could behold His brightness? For if even the few rays of light which our Divine Saviour suffered to beam from His face on Mount Thabor caused His disciples-----intimate and familiar as they were with Him-----to fall to the ground in amazement and dismay, who could bear in its full intensity the glory of His countenance as it appears to the eternal but insatiable gaze of the Elect and which forms the heaven of Heaven itself? Ah, in the glorious presence of Christ, even the just would be awe-stricken! Nay, they would perhaps die from distress and fear.
At all events, they would not dare to approach their Divine Saviour with love and affection. No one would venture to draw near to Him in order to converse with Him and to explain to Him his wants. The unfathomable mystery of the Blessed Sacrament would no longer be amor amorum (i.e., "love of all loves," as St. Bernard calls it); it could no longer be called a pledge of love between God and man; but it would be a Sacrament of Glory and Majesty before which we should be obliged to bend the knee, not in love and confidence, but in fear and trembling. But no, our Divine Saviour, who loves us so excessively, would in this Sacrament deal in all kindness with just and pious souls and would treat with them, not as a God of Majesty with His subjects, but as a good father with his beloved children, as a brother with his brothers, a friend with his confidential friend, a bridegroom with his bride.
Comedite, amici, et bibite et inebriamini, carissimi, says He to us. ("Eat, my friends, and drink and be inebriated, my well-beloved!") Venite ad me omnes, qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos. ("Come to Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." Matt. 11:28). Venite omnes, "come ye all," without exception; come ye poor and suffering; come ye rich and prosperous; come ye despised; come ye honored ones of the earth; come ye servants and slaves; come ye princes and masters; come ye husbands and wives; come ye parents and children; come ye young men and young women; come ye great and small; come all, without any exception; come ye My beloved children whom I have redeemed; expose to Me your wants and your troubles! Ego reficiam vos, "I will refresh you," I will console you. Venite, "come," then, come without fear! I am waiting for you at all hours.
Consider it well, dear Christian, in order that we may approach Him with childlike confidence; the most amiable and sweet heart of Jesus Christ invented this wonderful Sacrament, manifesting His love by concealing His Majesty and keeping Himself hidden under the appearance of bread, as under a veil, which He suffers no single beam of His Divinity to pierce, lest He might so awe us as to prevent our confidential intercourse with Him. "It is on account of our weakness," says Hugo of St. Victor, "that He does not show Himself in the brightness of His Majesty. " He acts towards us as a prince or a king who, having put aside his garments of state, appears in the company of his subjects without the emblems of his rank, not expecting from them the exact observance of court etiquette or demonstrations of so great respect, but intending, on the contrary, to make merry and rejoice with them in all confidence and familiarity.
O good Lord, O great God, how humbly dost Thou hide Thyself for our sake! But alas, how much is Thy bounty and love abused! Not only do sinners despise Thee in this Thy Sacrament of love, because they see Thee not, but the good also, the just, treat Thee with indifference and coldness. Thou hast been so long with them, and they with Thee, and for want of a lively faith, they have not known Thee. So long hast Thou been with us, and there are so few who know it, so few who are penetrated with a sense of their unspeakable happiness. I hear Thee complain of us, O dear Jesus, as Thou didst one day complain to the Blessed Margaret Alacoque [St. Margaret Mary], when showing to her Thy heart crowned with thorns: "Behold this heart of Mine so full of love for men that it has shed its last drop of blood for them and has given them My own Flesh and Blood as food and drink for their souls, and consider how this heart receives from most men in return for so great a love nothing but ingratitude and contempt!
But what grieves Me most is that I am thus treated even by good and just souls."
Do you not understand, dear Christian, the just complaint of your Divine Saviour? Is your heart not touched by it? "Behold," says He, "behold this heart which loves men so excessively, this heart which is always pouring out graces upon them, this heart so full of pity to receive sinners, to help the poor and indigent, to cure the sick, to console the afflicted, to hear the prayers of all men, at what time soever they come to ask-----this heart is not known; it is despised and (what is the most piercing grief) even by those souls into which I have so often entered in Holy Communion."
Ah, dear Christian, have you a heart? Well, if it be not of stone or iron, let it be touched by this touching complaint of the heart of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Give to your God and Saviour what is due to Him. Repay Him for the benefit of your creation; repay Him for the benefit of your redemption; for the benefit of the preservation of your life; for the pains of His scourging; for the agony of His crucifixion; but, above all, repay Him, yes, in some measure, repay Him for the excessive love and affection which He bears you in the Blessed Sacrament. "But how," you will ask; "how shall I pay my Jesus for His love to me? What can I give Him in return?" Nothing but love. Love demands love and is contented only with love. But it must be true love, that is, such love as animates you to keep His Commandments and to avoid sin; such love as impels you to receive Him often in Holy Communion and still oftener to visit Him in the church. Ask of Him then so to detach your heart from all creatures that you may live only for Him, Who came down from Heaven to live and die for you. So doing, you may expect with all confidence that in your last hour your dear and amiable Saviour, whom, having not seen, you have loved, will come to meet you, calling you to Him by these sweet and consoling words: "Come, thou good and faithful servant, come; because thou hast been faithful in little things, I will place thee over many." "Come and see what thine eye has never seen; come and hear what thine ear has never heard; come and enjoy what on earth thy heart has never conceived; come, enter into the joy of thy Lord forever and ever."