At the conclusion of his brilliant essay, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Lewis was right: The holy Eucharist bears the body of Christ and your neighbor bears the image of God.
Your neighbor may not behave in ways that show the sacredness within him or recognize the Blessed Sacrament for what it is but that does not alter the truth that C.S. Lewis stated with the penetrating precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.
The most ordinary people in the world are not ordinary. The image of God put within each person makes them special in the eyes of God – and that is how we should see them too. God’s love extends to every human life beginning at conception and that divine love continues to burn bright regardless of the person’s state or stage in the life spectrum, and beyond. God wants every human life to spend eternity with Him. He made provision for that through his only Son.
It is this knowledge of God’s love that has sustained me throughout more than thirty years of chronic and degenerative disease. Even when I doubted my own value, God did not. Even in my darkest days God’s love for me burned bright. Just knowing this was enough.
To receive the body of Christ under the species of the bread was a comfort beyond description. There were times during vicious attacks of multiple sclerosis, when my body seemed little more than a carcass ? my Saviour gave me His body in the Most Blessed Sacrament. It was (and is) enough.
Pope Benedict XVI said “The celebration and worship of the Eucharist enable us to draw near to God’s love and to persevere in that love.” (Sacramentum Caritatis “The Sacrament of Charity”). I have experienced the truth of the Pope’s exhortation even at my lowest and sickest points.
As far as the second “holiest object presented to your senses” that Lewis mentioned, this is why I have dedicated much of my adult life to the pro-Life cause. Since my early life I was taught that human life is sacred; there are ways it should be treated and ways it must not be treated. One person’s advantage must not be gained on the back of another, and killing is the worst assault against human dignity.
I believe in the interdependence of the human family more than independence of individuals. I believe in community not unfettered personal autonomy and my Catholic faith supports this conviction. The pages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church declare the Glory of God for his Church, our faith in Jesus Christ that has come to us down through the centuries and the Apostolic traditions all proclaim and the innate dignity of each human being.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been charged with task of taking our Christian hope to a lost and hurting world. Never underestimate the gospel of love. It was love that ultimately drew me to the Catholic Church. The perfect love of Christ is unlike any other love we encounter in our world. Jesus told his followers, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15.12)
The way we love one another with a Christ-like love starts by meeting people at their need or actively supporting those who do. We must meet lost and hurting people, in a spirit of love and gentleness, remembering always that Jesus came, suffered and died for them too. Many people have never known true love and Christ is the source of love.
It does not matter to our outreach that they may not yet be able to receive Christ’s love. Those who seriously seek God will find him. Our Lord said, “Everyone who asks, receives; all who seek, find; and the door is opened to everyone who knocks.” (Luke 11.10). As their fledgling faith grows they will be able to receive more of Christ’s perfect and divine love. It is that way for us all.
I am increasingly convinced that only when we who are followers of Christ enter eternity and stand face to face with Him, we will know as we are known. Only then will we finally be able to accept the completeness of love that Christ wanted to give to us our whole life.
The Blessed Sacrament is a foretaste of that glory of Christ in his Father’s Kingdom to which he referred at the Last Supper. Everything will be holy.