In early June, I was able to receive the Eucharist for the first time since the pandemic closed Catholic churches all over the country. It was a very moving experience for me to say the least. It made me appreciate what it means to be a blessed believing Catholic man in a world that has gone so far over the edge of normalcy that one wonders if we will ever be the same again.
Receiving the Eucharist after so long a time felt like my First Communion all over again. As I sat in my pew, sectioned off from others, I remember feeling the intense anticipation of being able to take in the Body of Christ once more. It brought to mind just how relevant the words of Psalm 1 have become for me in a world of isolation, division, and uncertainty. God’s indicative call upon my life and the action to which it leads me became so clear that I was almost brought to tears.
A Clear Choice
The reading from the Gospel of Matthew that day (5:33-37) shared Jesus’ words about letting our yes be yes and our no be no. In his homily, Father talked about how some people, when they go to Confession, use words that attempt to soften the seriousness of their sins – in other words, not letting their yes be yes, when it comes to laying out our transgressions before God. I was in awe at how accurately those words landed right in the center of my heart. It had been months since my last Confession and I had been struggling with how I would share my current struggles with my confessor in that little black box.
Psalm 1 is truly a Yes or No proposition. The psalmist presents two very clear paths: the way of the righteous man and the way of the wicked man. There is perfection in how it presents the righteous way in negative terms, highlighting our need to turn 180 degrees from the path of destruction:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1)
The way of the world is a slippery slope from temptation to immersion in sin, a progression from moving within the counsel of sinful thinking, to planting ourselves along the path of sin, to fully engaging in a lifestyle that mocks the way of God. Our decision to follow Christ begins with our decision to reject the way of this broken world.
My Food and My Delight
As we moved from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I felt my need for Christ more profoundly, even as the sheer joy of knowing I would receive the Body and Blood of Christ rose up from within me. I hung on every word of the Eucharistic prayers and let my prayerful responses flow like fragrant offerings from my lips. The moment of consecration was even more moving as I looked up with love at the elevated host and chalice, placing my hand over my heart to bow my head in surrender to this glorious mystery.
Such a powerful experience was made even more meaningful in the knowledge of my own deep longing for the Eucharist that I had missed so much. It brought the words of the psalm once more to my mind:
…but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)
My time away from the Eucharist had led to such a hunger for God’s presence that I dove deeply into his holy word, delighting in its law of love as it instructed me in the ways of the Lord. It grounded me in the rock solid foundation of my faith as I sunk my roots into the stream of living water. It helped me to grow strong and bear fruit even in a time when the days seemed as dry as the desert. I found myself falling in love with my family and my faith all over again. I hungered for more in my life, even as I struggled to overcome the anger and anxiety of these uncertain times.
Like Chaff, Wicked Ways Will Blow Away
As I received the Eucharist that day, the joy overwhelming me and my Savior overshadowing me, I began to see even more clearly the absurdity of the chaos around me, and my need to let go of the fear and anger and to hold on to the truths of my faith in the midst of such wickedness. The words of the psalm came ringing all the louder within my spirit:
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:4)
When Mass was over, I sought Confession and poured out my heart to my Savior in the sacrament. I had prayed the Act of Contrition so many times before, and yet, so many times had fallen again under the spell of desperation and despair through my rage against the world. Now, I could come honestly, thoughtfully, completely before the Church to receive the absolution and assurance of my forgiveness. As I shared my sins and my fears with Father, I could sense the truth that the evil around me, as perverse as it had become, was destined to fade away. I realized too that my answers to all my anxieties could never lie in anything but the One who gave his life for the world, the One who was forever on his throne of grace.
The World Has Not Won
Reflecting on the rest of the psalm I have come to realize that the evil around me is empty and insignificant before God. I know the ultimate end that is in store for all who dare to stand against heaven and the will of the Almighty:
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:5-6)
What a blessing to walk in the way of the Savior, to receive the Bread of Life, to be cleansed of sin, and to be transformed by the forgiving grace of God. Hatred and disorder, confusion and lies may rage all around us, but believers remain standing firm, working side by side for the cause of the Gospel, spreading its fragrance to a weary and broken world.
In the Eucharist, and in the words of God’s eternal song of love, I find hope for the future. I pray for reconciliation among men, restoration of our lives, and a new commitment to sharing the message of Christ with those who will listen. I know the end of all who reject Christ, and look forward to the reward that awaits all who have called upon his name.
May you renew your longing and love for the Eucharist and treasure its sacramental graces in your life. May you stand firm against the wickedness around you by sharing the love of Christ in your words and actions. And may you seek the hope that is ours in the One who makes all things new.