14 September 2014

Seeing Jesus: Questioning children, Saint Francis of Assisi, & the Eucharist

A young daughter of one of my friends back in Quincy asked her mother a lot of questions throughout the Holy Mass today, questions such as "Was Jesus born on a birthday?" and "Is that the real Jesus [the crucifix, her mother explained] or is he in our hearts?"

These questions are easy enough to answer but some of her other questions - such as "Why did the soldiers fight Jesus?" - are not so easy to answer.

Her questions about God and his loving plan for us all are all very good and one of the many troubles that adults often find themselves in is that they stop asking questions. They stop asking questions because they stop wondering and they stop thinking. At the same time, when they do ask questions they either ask the wrong people or do not bother to search - with greater or lesser effort - to find a full and satisfactory answer to their questions.

This ability to ask both simple and difficult questions - and to plainly express hopes and longings - with great openness and the confidence that the questions will be answered is part, I think, of what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

Some of the girl's questions, though, were actually statements, such as this one: "I wish I could see Jesus."

It reminded me of a time when I offered the Holy Mass in Shumway, Illinois one Sunday morning. As I elevated the Sacred Host after the consecration, the excited and whispered voice of a little boy was heard throughout the church: "That's Jesus!"

Many of the adults started giggling; I was in awe at what the Lord had revealed to this little one and hoped the adults would come to understand what he already knew (cf. Matthew 11:25). As I genuflected after the elevation, I prayed he would not forget this mysterious truth.

If I could respond personally to this little girl's hope to see Jesus, I would remind her that whenever she goes to Mass, she can see Jesus; she can see him in the Sacred Heart. This is why the priest exclaims: "Behold, the Lamb of God! Behold him who takes away the sins of the world!"

Deeply aware of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, Saint Francis of Assisi said in his Testament: "And I act in this way since I see nothing corporally [bodily] of the Most High Son of God in this world except His Most Holy Body and Blood."

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