Wasting Time With the Lord
by Earnest L. Tan
Much of our traditional Catholic practices are no longer adopted by the younger generation today. There are some rituals that I may perhaps not be too sad about losing such as the self-flagellations during the Lenten Season. But I am certainly very concerned about keeping the tradition of the Adoration of the Holy Eucharist alive. To me, this is undoubtedly an essential practice that will help us sustain our Catholic faith.
To those unaware, this practice consists of exposing the Blessed Sacrament. Usually after mass, the Holy Eucharist is placed in a monstrance for the faithful to spend time with. As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist is not only a mere metaphor of Christ’s presence. He is truly transubstantiated during the consecration at Holy Mass. Christ therefore is genuinely present in the host. Thus, during the adoration period, we are made aware of Christ’s powerful and wonderful presence in our midst. We are also being invited to a spiritual communion with Him. In several churches today, there is a chapel constructed specifically for the exposition of the Holy Eucharist. As faithfuls, we are encouraged to keep vigil for this perpetual adoration.
A major reason why this practice does not become a habit to us is because we fail to recognize its relevance. Permit me in this article to explore with you the meaning for such an endeavour.
One mistake of the church is to communicate to us that faith is comprised of obligations and rules to follow. We must not miss out on Sunday Mass. We must conduct monthly confessions. We must pray the novena or rosary daily. Once we fail to do any of these, we are threatened with punishment for displeasing God. Thus we end up perennially feeling guilty for not being conscientious in our practices. We were not taught that these are only ways to help us keep and sustain our faith. We missed out on the real essence of faith. It is originated from a deep encounter with our God to whom we can turn to and rely on for many things—blessings, support, strength, guidance and direction. Thus, following all these obligations and rules without this context becomes nothing less than hollow and meaningless. This applies to the Adoration of the Holy Eucharist as well. It is only meaningful if we believe that it will help us in deepening further our relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ.
It is essential then to go back to our faith journey. We need to examine these questions: Who introduced me to my faith? How was I oriented in my faith? How much of my past orientation of faith was adopted by me in my present life? What were my own experiences that could be considered as close encounters with the Holy and the Sacred? How did these experiences change me and my view of life? What lasting influence or influences did these have on me until now?
Early in my childhood, I witnessed to my two aunts who were quite religious. In fact, I remembered before I entered their room, there was holy water at the door. I had to make the sign of the cross first. Their room therefore seemed like a chapel to me. When I peeped in, they were kneeling before the altar with their hands outstretched. When I returned after an hour, they were still in the same position. I therefore witnessed a great deal of devoutness from them.
My aunties were also active members of the Eucharistic Women’s League with the Sta. Cruz Church. This is a parish run by the Blessed Sacrament fathers. They always brought me there for mass. I did not comprehend what the mass was all about back then. What I remembered clearly was witnessing to how people bowed down their heads in awe and reverence whenever the Eucharist was being raised during the Consecration part of the mass. As the Eucharist would be placed in the monstrance after mass, I also saw the mass-goers stay a while in silent contemplation. These perhaps were already my early encounters with something that was beyond this world.
During my college years, I was fortunate to join a religious movement that helped me form a deeper relationship with Christ. Attending masses and visiting the chapel became my daily habit as it was like keeping appointment to meet a friend. Thus, walking by a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament exposed is something I would not bypass. It is an opportunity to spend time with the Lord.
Bread For All
To people who live active lives, staying silent before the Blessed Sacrament may seem like a waste of time. To the faithful, it is far from that. On the contrary, it is not only a productive but also a life-giving experience. What really happens during this hour with the Lord?
First, we allow ourselves to be in the loving presence and embrace of God. This alone is sufficient reason to visit the Blessed Sacrament. Of course we are aware that God is everywhere. But as Catholics, we also believe that Christ chose bread as a form to make Himself ever present and available to us. In the last supper, Christ has instituted the Eucharist. “Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples, ‘Take it and eat,’ he said, ‘this is my body.’ ” (Mt 26: 26) After Christ’s death on the cross, some disciples were traveling on the road to Emmaus. They were still confused about the death of their Savior. They wondered why he had to be killed when he should have been the liberator. Jesus joined them in their journey though they did not recognize him. He began to explain the true meaning of salvation to them. The disciples requested this wise stranger to stay with them for supper as it is evening. “Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he had vanished from their sight.” (Lk 24: 30-31) It was at the moment in the breaking of bread that they finally recognized Christ. Only then did they on hindsight realized: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24: 32) Though the disciples had felt something, it was only through a visible sign that they confirmed Christ was indeed there among them. This same phenomenon happens to us. We are keenly aware of Christ present in our midst. But at times we need something visible to remind us. In the Blessed Sacrament, we actually see and feel Christ.
Second, we contemplate on the choice of bread as His visible sign of presence and availability to us. Bread is meant for our daily nourishment. In the same vein, Christ is a source of nourishment to us. It is however not just providing us bread alone. It is bread that is both blessed and broken for the nourishment of all. Christ who is God’s beloved chose to sacrifice His life to redeem us all. We too are being called to be like Him—to make ourselves broken in order to serve all. This however is only possible for us if we are open to be blessed by God. “We are to love, then, because he loved us first.” (1 Jn 4: 19) Only then can we find freedom and courage to sacrifice our own lives and make ourselves totally present and available to those who are in need of nourishment.
Third, we ponder before the Blessed Sacrament on how God through Jesus Christ is nourishing us each day. Indeed life can be difficult. Life poses many challenges to us. Yet we are never alone. God constantly sees us through. If we only look closely, Christ is providing what we need in order to thrive in life. “There is nothing that I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.” (1 Ph 4: 13) Thus our spiritual motto is: In Him who is the source of my strength, I have strength for everything! Sometimes, his nourishment comes in the form of a person whom we least expect to say something that will enlighten us in our present condition. Other times, it can be even through a simple text message, albeit one that is generic, that surprisingly brings light and consolation to our confusion and darkness. At times it is a line from a song that touches our heart and assures us that we are not alone and will never be alone. Christ therefore is alive and constantly interacting with us each single day. We acknowledge this truth. In His presence, we remain awed with His love for us.
Fourth, we discern in what ways we can be a blessing to others in as much as we have been blessed. We listen intently to Christ’s messages to us as to how we could best respond to the sign of the times. We witness to how many of our friends are mostly wounded and broken in their families. The ones who are responsible to provide them with a “holding environment” sadly have failed and disappointed them. We observe children left out in the streets trying to survive on their own. They too have been failed by their own parents. We hear in the news each day of greed and corruption from our leaders who have become self-serving in place of addressing the needs of the people. They have disappointed us as well. We see violence today becoming a common phenomenon. We begin to despair as we wondered where we went wrong. All of these we surrender in helplessness to Christ before the Blessed Sacrament. We wait in anticipation for Him to enlighten us. We soon come to know that Christ’s way is not to react to all these in anger, hatred, cynicism and violence. This will only reinforce the already existing cycle of violence. Instead, we respond like Christ with forgiveness, mercy, understanding and compassion. We learn to seek ways to promote a cycle of grace.
Pope Francis felt helpless too before the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. He did not know what to say that could really console them. He therefore opted to walk with them with a silent heart. He tells them: “Let us (take) a moment of silence together and look to Christ on the cross. He understands us because he endured everything.” Like bread that is broken and shared, we turn to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament first to be one with us in our own brokenness, individually and collectively. Then we predispose ourselves to be guided as to how we can make ourselves more available and present to those in need around us. We may not be able to change and save the world. But we can in our own small way be a “Christ-presence” as we join the part of the world that seeks to love and understand rather than hate and destroy. We signify our desire to be “bread for all.”
In our visit to the Blessed Sacrament, we can consider taking on any one or all of the following dispositions:
I place myself in Your presence, Your Incarnate Presence, with whom
I am most privileged and humbled to sit or kneel before
I bask in silence before You with great awe and wonder
I allow myself to be embraced by Your warmth and love
I contemplate on Your presence in the form of bread that is blessed
and broken for our nourishment
I ponder on the many nourishments that you provided me daily with
I meditate on how blessed I am with your daily nourishments
I seek to be like You—bread blessed, broken and shared for
the nourishment of all
I ask for the grace to become more and more an authentic Christ-
presence to others
I join with the part of humanity that desires to be life-giving—to love
and understand—and promote a cycle of grace instead of a cycle
I praise You and I surrender wholly to You who is the true Bread of
my soul and my source of everlasting joy
Stay With Me
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was wrought with fear and great distress. He knew that the time has come for Him to face trial and be put to death. He had expressed these feelings to His disciples before He went to pray. Imagine therefore His sadness and disappointment when He came back to see them sleeping. They apparently had not fathomed the graveness of the situation that Jesus was in. They failed to be there in His time of need. “He came back and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Had you not the strength to keep awake one hour?’” (Mk 14: 37)
This moment clearly illustrates the human side of Jesus. This mirrors our own human experience. There are many times in our lives like Jesus when in fear we feel the need to have someone to be by our side. The disciples who were baffled and sad during the road to Emmaus met a stranger whom they did not recognized to be Jesus. Jesus however paid attention to them and helped them address their concern. This prompted them to ask him to stay with them. “ ‘It is nearly evening,’ they said, ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went to stay with them.” (Lk 24: 29) Jesus as a result of His own human experience understood our human need for support. This is why he opted to stay with the disciples and broke bread with them. This is the same thing when we go for the Adoration of the Holy Eucharist. In our moments of loneliness and despair, Jesus through the Blessed Sacrament is telling us that he is totally available and attentive to us. He is genuinely listening to us as we come before Him. He stays with us in our most vulnerable moments. He is not going to abandon us.
The invitation of Jesus to Simon Peter to stay at least an hour with Him remains also the same for us today. This time however Jesus no longer requests this from us for his sake. He has already fulfilled His divine purpose on earth. He has therefore transcended his humanity. As a Divine Being now, His desire is to stay true to His promise to us when He was still with us. “I have come so that (you) may have life and have it to the full!” (Jn 10: 10)
Today when we visit the Eucharist, aside from staying with us during our most vulnerable moments, Jesus is continually reaching out to us and engaging us. He wishes to guide us so that we too with the help of the Holy Spirit may also fulfil our spiritual purpose on earth. His wish is for us to someday truly claim a life that is lived to the full. All that is asked of us is to be faithful and constant in keeping our appointment to spend some time with Him. This may be in the form of attending a Eucharistic celebration or sitting in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Is this something too difficult for us to do in exchange for the promise of a full life? Let us then make it a habit to spend time with the Lord. Let us learn to “waste time” in a manner of speaking to stay with Christ for at least an hour each day. Only then can we truly experience the promise of joy that stems from living life fully.
Earnest L. Tan is a licensed Guidance Counselor and Formation Professional. He is also a freelance facilitator who conducts various workshop-seminar that are psycho-spiritual in nature. He is the author of Why I Love Pope Francis, Pope Francis Close to Our Hearts and Your Greatest Gift for Your Greatest Love.