Marriage and the Eucharist

Happy Holy Thursday!!!  Ok, perhaps that’s an inappropriate way to approach what we are called to remember today, but it’s hard not to celebrate when you really think about it.  Yes, today we commemorate the betrayal of Jesus and the Agony in the Garden, which are very somber events indeed, but we also celebrate the Last Supper, which marks the institution of both the Priesthood and the Eucharist.  And that, my friends, is worth at least a little heel click, isn’t it?  Ok, maybe not a heel click, but it’s a day that’s certainly worth a moment of reflection.  Holy Thursday is actually my favorite day of the Triduum.  Before you accuse me of forgetting the main event of the season, I feel like I should throw a disclaimer out there: the Triduum does not include Easter Sunday.  Of course, in our house, we don’t do Easter candy until Easter Monday anyway.  For me, candy is a game changer, and on whatever day I got to eat it, that would most certainly become my favorite day of the entire year.  We don’t buy the candy until Monday because we are so holy that we only engage in the spiritually focused elements of the Easter holiday on Easter Sunday itself.  No, I’m totally kidding, it’s because we’re cheap and the candy doesn’t go on sale until Monday.  No, seriously, we haven’t figured out what we’re going to do once our kids are aware of the holidays, but we will find a way to do this… and it might involve a little “fib” about the Easter Bunny hiding their baskets.  I don’t know, we’ll have to iron out the details later, but we will avoid paying full price for the majority of our Easter candy for as long as we possibly can.

So back to Holy Thursday.  It pretty much sums up the whole of our Catholic faith, all in one day.  Not even a whole day, one MEAL.  That’s pretty efficient.  Pope Francis devoted his first Chrism Mass homily to the priesthood, which is such an awesome and incredible part of our faith.  At the Last Supper, Jesus invited His disciples to willingly suffer and die with Him, and they said YES!  It is the same invitation He gives to all priests – to suffer, to sacrifice, and to die to themselves (or possibly actually give up their lives, depending on the time and location of their earthly existence) so that they can know the depth of His love for them and show that same love to His Church, their bride.  I could go on for days about the priesthood, but I’ll defer to our wonderful Pope for his infinitely more profound message than anything I would be capable of awkwardly babbling.

Today also marks the institution of the Eucharist.  What an incredible reality of our faith, the Eucharist.  It’s so … well… just so ridiculous.  It is a ridiculous thing to believe that bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.  It truly is absurd.  But then, again, isn’t all of our faith kind of absurd?  Isn’t it a bit unbelievable that an all-powerful God would really care about our miniscule little lives, much less that He would care enough about them to send us His only Son to suffer and die so that we could be with Him for all eternity?  Yeah, I think that might just be one of the crazier things I’ve ever heard.  Yet, if you take the time to really give it some thought, it’s actually crazier not to believe it.  The truth is that an all-good, all-powerful, and all-loving God like ours is not limited in any way, even by our smallness, so it actually does make sense that He would have the capacity to care about our small existences.  I truly believe that He not only cares, but He actually waits with bated breath for us to tell Him about the minute details of our hopes, struggles, and thoughts, which is quite impressive, considering He already knows them better than we do.  The Eucharist, then, is the source, the very root of our faith; our crazy, absurd, ridiculous faith.  It is also the summit, the reward, that moment in our spiritual journey towards which we constantly strive: perfect union with Christ.  Well, perhaps not perfect on our end, but always perfect on His end.  Our love will be perfected in Heaven… that should be a pretty humbling experience…

Meditating on the Eucharist always gets me thinking about marriage.  Yet another absurd idea: loving one person forever and ever, giving your whole life to them and only to them, giving up all things that threaten the health of your relationship.  Yep, that’s pretty insane.  Yet, again, if you really think about it, to meet the person for whom God has destined your whole heart and NOT give up anything that stands between you is, in fact, more ridiculous.  Constantly striving for a perfect union of love, a perfect marriage, marked by the making of a total gift of yourself for the other person and therefore for God: that’s a pretty steep challenge.  And yet, it’s exactly the challenge for which we are made, the only accomplishment that will truly fill our hearts.

I think the two concepts (marriage and the Eucharist) are so related in my mind because both are ideas that could very easily be disregarded as utterly foolish.  If we look at them from a materialistic perspective, in the Eucharist, we’re adoring a piece of bread.  And not even a very tasty one!  In marriage, we’re risking everything for a relationship that, close to HALF of the time, doesn’t even work out!  The depth of both ideas could be so easily denied.  If the Eucharist were more than bread, shouldn’t something obviously fantastic happen at the consecration?  At the very least, wouldn’t our hearts always swell with joy at the experience of receiving the Eucharist?  One celebration of the Mass should dispel all doubt, if Christ is truly present.  In the same way, if marriage were more than just a contract scribbled on a piece a paper; an agreement just as easily broken as it was made, wouldn’t it be easier?  If we were meant to be married forever, it wouldn’t be so difficult, and love wouldn’t be such a struggle.  We’d never even think about divorce if human love could be, and was in fact made to be, an image of Divine love.  If we only look at these realities with doubtful hearts searching for proof, we will only see the ridiculous and impossibility of it all because a search for truth that is rooted in disbelief and doubt will always be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  And yet, these experiences are both in themselves pinnacles of love: one human and the other Divine.  Both are shrouded in mystery; veiled by the impossibility of their own magnitude, which can only be lifted by the eyes of faith.  When we look with faith, we understand that our imperfect human experiences of these sacred truths are caused by our doubt and our sin.  To experience them in their perfection would require a total abandonment of ourselves to the Will of God, and that is the continual challenge of our lives.  It also requires Grace, lots and lots of Grace.  How easy to doubt; how hard to believe, but we have to dive in, and I mean ALL IN, not keeping one foot out, just in case we’re wrong.  That would be like trying to swim with one foot out of the pool, and you can ask any swim instructor: you can’t really learn to swim until you put your face in the water.  Only when we truly immerse ourselves in the apparent absurdity that is faith will we understand real Truth and know true love, both the divine love that God is pouring out for us, and the human love that is meant to reflect His perfect love.  When we abandon ourselves totally to God, we find the richness of truth that we seek, and it becomes absurd to deny it.

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