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Love Encounter

 

Jesus’ Love Meal—our Eucharistic Celebrations—is a Love Encounter. A Love Encounter with the Father, who is the Source of All Love. A Love Encounter with Jesus, who is Love in Action. A Love Encounter with the Spirit of Love, who anoints us to live a life of love. In short, Jesus’ Love Meal is a Love Encounter with the Trinity of Love.

And profoundly, a Love Encounter with ourselves and the Beloved Community, our sisters and brothers!

Unfortunately, the Church has transformed Jesus’ Love Meal into a Church service—a ritual of words and practices centered on the celebrant, who is only the presider.  So, we have to make Jesus’ Love Meal come alive for ourselves. How? By embracing the three stages of the Love Encounter during our Eucharistic Celebrations. The three stages form a dynamic process that moves us to authentic self-love, to surrender of self into union with God and our sisters and brothers, and to spiritual empowerment to empower ourselves and others.

Encountering Love’s Source. To all appearances, at his baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus  had a God-experience: Jesus encountered the Father, the Source of All Love. And so must we, or at least desire to do so—to enter fully into Jesus’ Love Meal. But let us first look at Jesus’ experience to draw out some clues for our own encounter.

In Mt 3: v. 16-17, we read: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he (John the Baptist) saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Of course, Jesus was sinless and did not require baptism. But after his God-experience, Jesus was transformed into a person of great power and authority.

Scripture scholars have suggested that Jesus needed the Father’s expression of love to confirm his identity and mission. In light of that interpretation, I can identify with Jesus’ God-experience. This Gospel passage has helped me appreciate my own God-experience of many years ago.

My “baptism in the Jordan” took place on a weekend retreat. I came to it with much negative baggage—pockets of self-hate buried deep in my subconscious. In the first meditation of the day on the masks we wear, I saw them march across the stage of my imagination. Unbeknownst to me, the Spirit had already come down on me. This revelation stirred my anger toward myself. I vowed never to live my life that way again.

When I came up out of the water of my reflection, I felt the Source of All Love radiating out of my gut. It was as if God, the Father, was saying to me: “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” My Creator loved me. I was lovable. I could love others. I could love! Great joy burst within me.

Discovering that we are created by the Source of All Love for a life of love is the most fundamental struggle of our spiritual life. This discovery must be experiential, not a head trip. It establishes our true self-love based on our relationship with the Source of All Love, not on the narcissistic love of self. Without authentic self-love, we can neither love ourselves nor God nor our spouses nor others.

This experience of authentic self-love is a divine gift, a gift that we must constantly seek. Before we enter Jesus’ Love Meal, let us pray in an attitude of powerlessness and surrender for this gift in such words as: “Father, Source of All Love, let me encounter you. Make me aware of my union with you. Only you can gift me with true self-love. I can’t do it for myself. Let me surrender to your Spirit’s invitation to true self-love. Let me totally enter into Jesus’ Love Meal.”

Encountering Love’s Action. The historical Jesus was both Love in Action and a man of great wisdom. When he planned to leave us, he must have seriously pondered what would be his final legacy to us. Consider the problem he faced and his creative solution. The myth of the Garden of Eden reveals the threefold problem of humanity that we have all inherited. By their disobedience of God’s command, our first parents had alienated themselves from God. Problem No. 1: They had lost their natural union with God.

Problem No. 2: They had alienated themselves from one another: “…they realized that they were naked.” Their loving union had become an alienating subject-object relationship. Thus, all human relationships would be impacted.

And Problem No. 3:  Union of heart and mind that had been the glory of their personhood had become a lifetime of self-alienation with computer-like minds isolated from hearts. Jesus’ creative solution was to solve the problem of alienation in all its forms by bringing us into union through love. For this purpose, he established his Love Meal, our Eucharistic Celebrations.

Lived fully, Jesus’ Love Meal can heal us of our alienation toward God, self and others. How? By encountering the Risen Jesus who is Love in Action. To do so, we must identify with him as the loving Celebrant at the altar. The priest is just a stand-in for Jesus. We must be fully present with a caring heart and an attentive mind to the core actions of the liturgy. They are Jesus’ invitations to the Love Encounter:

  • Jesus invites us to offer up ourselves in union with him. When we offer what sustains our life—our food and drink symbolized by bread and wine—we are offering up our lives. Let us also enter deeply into Jesus’ self-offering by encountering briefly his passion and death—visualizing his crown of thorns, his flesh torn by whips,  nails hammered into his hands and feet, the lance piercing his side. Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary has made eternal the fire of Calvary that creates the crucible of his love to transform us.
  • Jesus invites us to be consecrated with him for sacrifice. As the priest consecrates our gifts of bread and wine, we all become the bread and wine. A double transubstantiation takes place—for Jesus and ourselves. Jesus has immersed us in a life of union with our sisters and brothers.
  • Lastly, Jesus invites us to be consumed with him by our sisters and brothers. Lovers experience being consumed in the act of love.  Surrender is key. We lovingly pray: “Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Jesus’ Love Meal has brought us into union as all love meals do. The Beloved Community with our sisters and brothers is being built up. Jesus anoints us for greater love and union with one another by gifting us with the Spirit of Love.

Encountering Spirit of Love.  Each time we receive Eucharist at our Love Meal, let us imagine that Sunday night in Jerusalem when the disciples were gathered behind locked doors for fear of persecution. Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is what the Risen Jesus is telling us each time we receive Eucharist! Let us respond with prayer and surrendered hearts to the Spirit of Love’s invitations to union when we receive Eucharist:

  • Union with God. Let us pray for greater union with the Father, the Source of All Love. We need to call upon the Spirit of Love, God’s own life of Love, to dispel our alienation toward the Father and awaken our hearts to greater union. For it is the Spirit who is the life-giving agent of all our creativity, all our inspiration, all our love’s aspirations. Who invites us constantly to greater love, hope and faith. Let us daily strive to hear and feel our Father’s words to us: “You are my beloved son (daughter) in whom I am well pleased.”
  • Union with Others. Let us pray for greater union with our sisters and brothers. Let us ask the Spirit to weaken our deep-seated alienation toward others, the effect of Original Sin. Let us pray that the Spirit will anoint us to live a life of compassion to our sisters and brothers—being fully present to them, with a caring heart and an attentive mind. To be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to them. To be channels of love, hope and faith to them to awaken their love, hope and faith.
  • Union with Self. Let us pray for greater union within ourselves, without which we cannot love God or others. That the Spirit free us of heartless minds so that we might truly see and understand, that we may see others as subjects, not objects. the divine in all creation. That the Spirit restore union of heart and mind within us that had been the glory of our personhood before self-alienation resulted from Original Sin.

Conclusion. The historical Jesus’ creative solution for the problem of alienation and the resulting loss of our union with God, others and ourselves was his Love Meal. It is at our Eucharistic Celebrations that the Risen Jesus anoints us with the Spirit of Love to bring us back to the Garden of Eden where our first parents experienced the Original Blessings of union with God, others, themselves and creation.

What an incredible, wonderful solution to Paradise Lost! A Love Meal that is a Love Encounter with the Source of All Love, with Love in Action and with the Spirit of Love—to bring us into union with the Trinity of Love, with ourselves and our sisters and brothers!

Jesus knew that only transformed people could transform others. That only transformed people could build the Beloved Community. That only transformed communities could transform the world—the ultimate witness of Jesus’ authenticity and power. An incredible End Plan!

Radical Surrender

In my imagination, I heard the Eucharistic Minister offering me Eucharist say: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” How beautifully those words express the dynamics of our Eucharistic experience. For our Eucharistic Celebration is Jesus’ Love Meal, and like all love meals it is an invitation to radical surrender into union. That is what the Mass is all about.

The term, “Consume and be consumed,” signifies—radical surrender. But to whom? Our Eucharistic Celebrations are a twofold invitation to radical surrender—first to the Crucified Jesus and finally to the Mystical Christ who incorporates all our sisters and brothers.

Consuming the Crucified. Before we consume, we must consume. Before we consume Eucharist, we must surrender to the Crucified Jesus. The Crucified Jesus is the most dramatic expression of Divine Love. In a moment of time, the Eternal and Infinite Being emptied Himself and took on the form of a vulnerable human being who experienced suffering and death—for us. It is the fire of Calvary that fires up the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Yet, the Crucified Jesus gets little more than an honorable mention at Mass.

We must experience radical surrender to the Crucified Lover. It is not Jesus’ wounds that we love. It is his love that we love. It is his desire to bring us into communion with the Trinity of Love that we love—to unite us with our Father who is the fountainhead of infinite love, to unite us with the Spirit of Love who is agent of all human creativity, all human inspiration, all human love’s aspirations. It is Jesus’ eros to unite us with him in one Mystical Body that we love.

Before we consume Eucharist, we must consume the Crucified Jesus. We must radically surrender to the Crucified Jesus. It is our love responding to Jesus’ love that creates the crucible of love that transforms us and prepares us for union with the Mystical Christ.

Consuming the Mystical. We no longer have the historical Jesus with us. But we have the Risen Jesus, who is now the Mystical Christ, in whom we are all incorporated. When the priest raises the host and wine at the Consecration, he is lifting up the Mystical Christ who includes all of us to be sacrificed. Sisters and brothers are co-mingled in the bread of the hosts and in the wine of the chalice. We are made Eucharist for sisters and brothers to consume the Mystical Christ and one another as bread and wine.

But how do we enter into this deeply mystical experience? It is not easy. It is like stirring the ocean. By contrast, the Crucified Jesus is tangible. We can witness Jesus’ passion and death in our imagination. It is more difficult with the Mystical Christ. Yet, union with the Mystical Christ is essential for achieving Jesus’ End Plan of creating the Beloved Community

What can we do? We can use what is tangible at our Eucharistic reception, and we can use our imagination and, most important, our desire for union. What is impossible for our rational minds does not hold back our hearts from leaping beyond the finite. We want to feel the flow of unitive energy with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers. Of course, it is the Spirit’s gift to give us this consolation, but we should make the effort.

What is tangible at our Eucharistic reception is the priest or Eucharistic Minister. Think of this person as the presider for Jesus, the role of the priest throughout the Eucharistic Celebration and now extended to Eucharistic Ministers. Whoever offers us Eucharist, he or she is inviting us to consume the Mystical Christ and to be consumed by him. We need to approach this person in a relational way. At this moment we begin our surrender into union with the Mystical Christ.

Desire is our most creative force and we should use our desire to prepare our hearts for Eucharistic reception. My prayer of desire is: “Jesus, anoint us for greater love and unity. Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Receiving from the cup, I embrace the cup with two hands—an act of desire.

Another way of awakening our hearts to surrender to the Mystical Christ is to use our imagination. Simply imagine the Eucharistic Minister saying as the Eucharist is offered: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” Repeat the words to yourself. With the Spirit’s inspiration, these words can stir our desire for surrender into union with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers.

Paradox of Surrender. We should not be surprised by the paradox that exists at the heart of our Eucharistic Celebrations. By radically surrendering to the Crucified Jesus and to the Mystical Christ at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are brought into Mystical Union. It is in Mystical Union that we are transformed and empowered.

Surrender is empowerment! The article, All Are Anointed, emphasized that at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are anointed in two ways. First, for our personal transformation that is necessary if we are to bring about the Beloved Community. Second, for empowering us to empower others to greater love, hope and faith.

Radical surrender to the Crucified Jesus unleashes the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Radical surrender at our Eucharistic reception to the Mystical Christ, who includes all our sisters and brothers, brings us to the summit and fulfillment of our Eucharistic experience!

Finally, appreciation for Eucharist evolves, as our spiritual lives evolve. Jesus did not give us a manual to teach us the significance of his Love Meal. He did give us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, who guides us as individuals to embrace this Love Encounter in our personal way. The Spirit inspires us through our hearts that have experienced surrender into union in our daily lives. We need awareness, desire and discernment to respond. Jesus is counting on the Spirit and our hearts to bring about the Beloved Community through celebrating his Love Meal.