To Be Inflamed IN Love for Christ
 Mother Adela, SCTJM

(Reflection given on the occasion of the Archdiocesan gathering for religious on the World Day for
Consecrated Life – Miami, February 2005).
For private use only -©

Year of the Eucharist, year of inflaming our hearts in ardent yearning of love
This past October 7ht, His Holiness John Paul II proclaimed the Year of the Eucharist with his Apostolic Letter “Mane Nobiscum Domine”, “Stay with us, Lord”. Stay with us! This was the invitation which the disciples on the way to Emmaus made to the traveler who joined them along the way. Those disciples who walked under the weight of grief and distress, who were tired and discouraged, felt the need of the presence of Him whose words and company inflamed their hearts, as we are told in the passage of Luke 24, verse 29. Amidst the shadows and the darkness, the disciples experienced a particular ardor in the presence of the Lord, that is to say, a fire that inflamed their hearts and dissipated their inner darkness, illuminating them, as St. Luke tells us, to the point where “their eyes were opened”.

In this Year of the Eucharist, we are invited to rediscover the great mystery of love in the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Taking the image of the disciples on their way to Emmaus, the entire Church, and in a particular way, religious communities, have been invited to turn their gaze towards Christ, who has fulfilled and will always live up to the promise He gives to us in Matthew 28,20: “I will be with you until the end of time”. He is with us! He has stayed with us in the midst of the difficulties and trials in life, amidst the sins and sufferings, amidst the coldness and the miseries of this world. He is with us so that the fire of His Heart may keep our hearts aflame, so that He may keep us enkindled in love for Him and for humanity. His presence, hidden to our eyes, is as real as the one testified by the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The main effect that this presence must exert in our hearts must therefore be the same as that experienced by these disciples: “their hearts filled with ardent yearning”. The Presence of Christ inflames the human heart with the fire of His love. Precisely a few days ago, on the occasion of the World day for Consecrated Life, Cardinal Carlos Amigo of Spain, said: “consecrated life and the Eucharist, unite in such a way that they consume the consecrated person in love”.

He burns our of love for us in the Eucharist
“For the Most Holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth. Consequently, the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of His boundless love” (EE, 1).

The Eucharist is the gift par excellence of the love of the Sacred Heart. We cannot understand the Eucharist without comprehending the love of the Heart of Jesus. In chapter 13 of his gospel, Saint John tells us: “As he had loved those who were his own in the world, he would love them to the extreme” (John 13,1). To the extreme…, this means without sparing anything in order to manifest His love. Only love, and what kind of love it is!, has made the Heart of Jesus capable of staying with us hidden in humility, in the Holy Eucharist. That is why He would tell Saint Maria Faustina from the tabernacle: “It is love that has brought me here and it is love that keeps me here”.

This year we have been called (and particularly all consecrated persons), to re-discover the infinite mystery of the love of Christ in the Eucharist. We’ve been called to understand the love with which we are loved in order to correspond with generosity and gratitude to the love of He who has loved us, and as St. Francis used to say: “is not loved in return”.

Consecrated persons are called in a very special way to discover and value the Eucharist as a Mystery of Love, as an act of personal love from the Lord to each and every one of us, and to participate and adore this Sacrament as a true act of love for God, as a response of love to Him who has loved us to the extreme. “Truly, in the Eucharist, He shows us a love which goes to the end (Jn. 13,1), a love which knows no measure” (EE, n.11) and this love begets love in the human heart.

This profound comprehension of the love to the extreme with which Christ has loved us, as He himself declared it to St. Margaret Mary: “Behold, this heart which has loved men so much that it has spared nothing even to exhausting and consuming itself in order to testify to them its love”, will evoke a response in our hearts, proper to the spousal dimension of our vocation as consecrated women. The love of Christ invites us to love, to a profound union of the human heart with His Heart. “My lover is mine and I am his” (Songs 6).

"I am with you always until the end of this World" (Mt. 28)
“The Eucharist is a mystery of presence, the perfect fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to remain with us until the end of the world” (MND, 16)

What a mystery! Love is singularly a “presence”. One of the evident signs of love and faithfulness will be “to be at the side of the loved one”, in the giving of one’s heart, one’s love, one life. Presence is fundamental so that love can be perceived and understood, and so that it will have its most profound effects in the heart of the one who receives and embraces this love.

Having chosen to stay with us “every day” to keep us company, to nourish, vivify, enlighten and protect the Church, His bride, continues to be an eloquent sign of Jesus’ love and faithfulness. He is with us every day… And we who are consecrated souls, brides of Christ, are moved by this love which is “presence” and must therefore correspond with our presence. If He is with us every day, so must we accompany Him every day… be with our Beloved as He is with us in the Holy Eucharist.

Be with Him, as He is with us
Let us listen to the words of the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine: “Consecrated men and women, called by that very consecration to more prolonged contemplation: never forget that Jesus in the tabernacle wants you to be at his side, so that he can fill your hearts with the experience of his friendship, which alone gives meaning and fulfillment to your lives” (n.30).

Our spousal relationship with Christ reaches a particular summit in Eucharistic communion. At his moment, the words of Christ “live in me as I live in you” (Jn 15,4), actualize in a most powerful way. It is in Eucharistic communion as well as in Eucharistic adoration that the spousal dimension of our vocation enters into a dynamism of love, which has the power to transform, fire up and elevate our hearts to great heights of sanctity and charity. “Do not fail to dedicate with renewed conviction sufficiently long periods of time to prayer before the Lord to tell Him their love and, above all, to feel loved by Him" (Contemplative dimension of religious life, n.2)

A fundamental attitude of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which we can easily perceive through Scripture, is to be always at His side, from the time of the Annunciation… nine months in prayerful waiting; in Bethlehem, they found the child Jesus by His Mother. At the Presentation, she is with the baby in her arms… When He is lost in the temple, She sets out to find Him; in His public ministry, She is silently by His side; on the way of the Cross, Her sorrowful faithfulness accompanies Him; at Golgotha, her company and her gaze is fixed upon her crucified Son. Already dead, He is placed in her arms. She lays His body in the tomb. She afterwards stands by the newborn Church, Mystical Body of her Son.

Therefore, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the first and greatest model for any consecrated person. The Holy Father exclaims: “How consoling is it to know that Mary is standing by our side, as Mother and Teacher, in our itinerary of consecration!” “I desire to be like Mary, -writes Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist in one of her most intense and profound pages on the Eucharist-, “be Mary” for Jesus, occupy the place of His Mother. Woman of the Eucharist, in her whole life (EE n.53). “I ask my Jesus to be put as a sentinel in all the tabernacles of the world until the end of time”.

“To be with Christ”… the gospels remind us that Jesus praised this disposition in Mary of Bethany, who “sitting at the feet of Christ, listened to His word”. To Martha, who came to Jesus asking Him to intervene so that her sister would help her serve, the Teacher responded: “Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her” (Lk. 10, 38-42). The meaning of these words from Jesus is clear: the better part consists in being with Jesus, remaining with Him, close to Him… for our hearts to be in communion with His. That is why in Christian tradition, inspired on the gospels, contemplation has an indisputable priority in consecrated life. “I will lead her once more into the desert where I can speak to her tenderly” (Hos. 2:16).

The Holy Father explains it thus: “It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”,48 how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!” (EE, n. 25)

The Eucharist forges martyrs of love
The Eucharist is a clear expression of the faithfulness of Christ to the Church, His Bride. With the Eucharist, so must we clearly express our faithfulness and closeness to the Bridegroom. The constant dedication in prayer, in listening and in communicating our love before the Eucharistic presence, forges in the consecrated heart a total disposition to the daily offering of oneself, to the extreme of giving up one’s life. “In this century, as in other periods of history, consecrated men and women have borne witness to Christ the Lord with the gift of their own lives” (VC, n.86).

The faithfulness of so many consecrated souls amidst long and heroic sufferings, to the point of giving their last drop of blood in perfect imitation of Christ Crucified, is a fruit of the assiduous contemplation of the great mystery of love and oblation of Christ in the Eucharist. In this contemplation we discover his faithfulness, his love to the extreme and his sublime abnegation, to the point of the Cross and the Eucharist. In number 83, Vita Consecrata tells us that “dedication to the point of heroism belongs to the prophetic nature of the consecrated life”. That total faithfulness to Christ is embedded in the character, and in the essence of religious life; it predisposes the soul to undertake the most heroic sacrifices. That kind of love is forged before the Eucharist. As Blessed Fr. Damian said: “If it wasn’t for the constant presence of our Divine Teacher in this humble chapel, I wouldn’t be able to persevere in participating of the same fate as the lepers in Molokai”.

The love of the Eucharistic Heart will always beget love in the human heart. By attending this school of selfless and sacrificial love, our hearts are transformed and predispose to the same type of faithfulness. It empowers us to be faithful to Christ and to be witnesses of His love, even if it takes the giving up of our own life. Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Knight of the Immaculata, was known for his constant visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He would say that he went there, “to the school of love, to transform my heart and to resemble His”. That is why he was able to take the place of a man at the concentration camp in Auschwitz and be, in that place of hatred, an eloquent witness of love, dying as Christ did, giving up his life for another.

The sanctity of consecrated life, fruit of our relationship with the Eucharist
“To tend towards holiness: this is in summary the program of every consecrated life, particularly in the perspective of its renewal on the threshold of the Third Millennium” (VC, 93).

His Holiness John Paul II has told us in Nuovo Milenio Ineunte, that the pastoral path of the Church, today, is only one, and it is urgent: holiness. For the Holy Father, the new springtime of the Church is above everything else, a moment of abundant grace by which many saints will be forged: The saints of the new millennium. “Holiness, a message that convinces without the need for words, is the living reflection of the face of Christ” (NMI, 7). “Do not forget that you, in a very special way, can and must say that you not only belong to Christ but that "you have become Christ"! (VC, 109)

The consecrated soul is formed and forged by the frequent communion with Christ in the Eucharist! Before Him, the soul is filled with graces, faith is strengthened, hope becomes more joyful and secure, love is inflamed. Where is the school of sanctity? It is before the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the secret of the saints, because they have fully understood the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. As long as you remain in me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15,5).There are no saints without the Eucharist, and there aren’t many saints, because we lack men and women who spend time with Jesus in the Eucharist in order to be transformed into a living image of the feelings, virtues and motions of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. “Let us take our place, dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the saints, who are the great interpreters of true Eucharistic piety. In them the theology of the Eucharist takes on all the splendor of a lived reality; it becomes “contagious” and, in a manner of speaking, it “warms our hearts” (EE 62). We could give so many examples of saints whose lives have been entirely centered on the Eucharist, who have made their lives a Eucharistic life.

Saint Therese of Lisieux: The center of her life, her affection and attention was the “prisoner of love” as she would call Jesus in the Eucharist. In a poem she herself wrote, she reveals her ardent love and total dependence on this sacrament of love. “I want to be the key to the tabernacle, to open the prison of the Holy Eucharist. I want to be the lamp that consumes itself near the tabernacle. I want to be the rock on the altar in order to become a new manger where the Eucharist can rest. I want to be the corporals that hold the consecrated host. I want to be the paten.. I want to be the monstrance, the chalice..” St. Therese wanted to be everything that she could be in order to love and protect the Eucharistic Lord.

To repair with our love
(MND 18): “During this year Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should become a particular commitment for individual parish and religious communities. Let us take the time to kneel before Jesus present in the Eucharist, in order to make reparation by our faith and love for the acts of carelessness and neglect, and even the insults which our Saviour must endure in many parts of the world.”
The Holy Father has called us to offer our love to Jesus, in this Year of the Eucharist, as a gift of reparation. This act of love takes on a particular meaning in consecrated life, since our vocation is in itself an offering of reparation, as St. Thomas Aquinas puts it: “We come to understand the identity of the consecrated person, beginning with his or her complete self-offering, as being comparable to a genuine holocaust.” Therefore, our acts of reparation have a doubled strength, the strength of the love that is entailed in every act of reparation, and the strength of our consecrated vocation, lived as a generous offering of our whole self, an offering to God for the fulfillment of His will. “I beg you, dearly beloved, by the mercy of God, to give yourselves as a living and holy sacrifice pleasing to God: such is the worship of a rational being” (Rom. 12).

“Doesn’t your vocation constitute a sacrificial offering in itself? Each consecrated person, guided by the spousal love towards Christ, offers Him the sacrifice of their own life, giving themselves up entirely and leaving everything behind, through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.” (JP II, 1996).
The reparation of a religious finds its highest manifestation of love in the intimate, real and total communion of heart with the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. “I wish that in their daily visits to the tabernacle, they may come to gather my tears, wiping my eyes with their own hearts” (Jesus to the Venerable Conchita Armida).

The consecrated vocation offers reparation for all that is opposed to the love of God in the human heart and in the world. The Holy Father explains this in the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptionis Domun, n. 9:
In the Economy of Redemption the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience constitute the most radical means to transform the hearts of men; in dealing with the external world and one’s personal “I”. In the first letter of Saint John, it is not difficult to see the fundamental importance of the three evangelical counsels as they relate to the economy of Redemption:
Evangelical chastity helps us to transform in our inner life, all that finds its roots in the concupiscence of the flesh.
Evangelical poverty transforms that which has its roots in the concupiscence of the eyes.
Evangelical obedience allows us to radically transform in the human hearts, all that which spurs from pride in our lives.

To be inflamed in love to enkindle the World
The Church invites us all to go forth from the Eucharist, for both the first and the new evangelization of the world. Weren’t we invited in 2002 by the document given to us by the Congregation for the Institutes of Religious life to “Start afresh from Christ”? In other words, invited to embark upon our walk as consecrated persons in the Third Millennium, setting off from our daily, personal as well as communal encounter with Christ in the Eucharist.

In this same document, we are invited to the new Evangelization with a special Eucharistic splendor: “A new century, a new millennium, are opening in the light of Christ. But not everyone can see this light. Ours is the wonderful and demanding task of becoming its reflection... This is a daunting task if we consider our human weakness, which so often renders us opaque and full of shadows. But it is a task which we can accomplish if we turn to the light of Christ and open ourselves to the grace which makes us a new creation”. (SAFC 46). The Holy Father, on this past February 2nd, World Day for Consecrated Life, sent from his bed at Gemelli hospital, this message to all the consecrated: “The Eucharist is the secret of the ardor that religious of today are in need of”.

If the time has come to fix our gaze on the Consecrated Host, on Christ present among us… this means it is time to move forward with the transforming and renewing strength of the Eucharist. The Church today needs consecrated men and women whose hearts are aflame, filled with ardent yearning just as the disciples on their way to Emmaus, before the presence of Christ. Only if our hearts are burning with love, consumed in passion for Christ and humanity, we will have the strength, the courage, the impulse, we will be brave enough to set out for the New Evangelization, so necessary in our contemporary world. We must be on fire in order to set on fire, be the light in order to illuminate. We must get to know Him intimately in our hearts in order to transmit the fire of the love of Christ and His gospel as living witnesses.. “The new evangelization, like that of all times, will be effective if it proclaims from the rooftops what it has first lived in intimacy with the Lord” (VC 81).

Words from Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 62:
“Let us take our place, dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the saints, who are the great interpreters of true Eucharistic piety. In them the theology of the Eucharist takes on all the splendor of a lived reality; it becomes “contagious” and, in a manner of speaking, it “warms our hearts”. Above all, let us listen to Mary Most Holy, in whom the mystery of the Eucharist appears, more than in anyone else, as a mystery of light. Gazing upon Mary, we come to know the transforming power present in the Eucharist. In her we see the world renewed in love.”

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