Eucharistic Discipleship: Seeking Union with God, Part I

After setting forth our new parish mission statement – “To walk the path of love in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, nourished by the Body of Christ, which is the Eucharist.” – I have been writing on the theme of ‘eucharistic discipleship’.

Eucharistic discipleship means growing into the full, conscious, and active participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass that is our right, privilege, and duty as Catholics, then going forth from the Mass with hearts transformed, leading to lives transformed, so that we become true ‘missionary disciples’.

Full, active, and conscious participation means that we must enter in to receive instruction, enter in to receive healing, and finally enter in seeking union with God. I have already written about instruction and healing, now I must turn my attention to union with God.

Actually, heaven itself is eternal union with God, body and soul; heaven itself is life in the eternal embrace of the most Holy Trinity; heaven itself is an eternal exchange in the union of supreme self-giving love.

Yet, heaven begins here on earth in the Mass; heaven begins here on earth because heaven is the fulfillment of the reality that we already begin to share through holy communion. That the Mass itself reaches its culmination in the communion of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, tells us that God wants that eternal union with him to begin already here and now. He desires that union of love and life more than we do, more than we can imagine. Jesus himself at the Last Supper said, I have ardently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Lk 22:15)

At the beginning of Genesis we read that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh. (Gen 3:24) In language that explicitly parallels the language of Genesis, St. Paul writes, Whoever cleaves to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Cor 6:17) The intimate ‘one flesh’ union of marriage is a sign and sacrament of the one spirit union to the Lord to which has begun in us and to which we are all called through our baptism.  This ‘one spirit’ union is nourished in us precisely through the visible, tangible sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, given to us in the form of food and drink.

Here it is necessary to say something about a great obstacle to spiritual union with God, an obstacle that is the context for St. Paul’s amazing words about spiritual union: sexual immorality, that is any sexual activity outside of a true marriage. The ‘one flesh’ union of true marital love possesses the great dignity of serving as a sign and sacrament of the spiritual union of love with the Creator, but for that very reason any falsification of that ‘one flesh’ union renders true spiritual union with God impossible.

It does not matter that the falsification of the ‘one flesh’ union is justified (or rationalized) in the name of ‘love’. The love is false; it is a lie. This falseness of this love is often revealed by the incalculable harm done to children; it would be a pretty good guess to say that wherever serious juvenile delinquency is found, the sexual sins of some adult are somehow involved.

Further, the obstacle is not just immoral sexual activity, but the whole dominion of lust. Because of the widespread plague of pornography there is tremendous need both for repentance and healing in this matter. Jesus said, Whoever looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. (Mt 5:28) He also said, Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8) Both what he commands and promises he makes possible by the grace of his Holy Spirit.

Purity of heart certainly means more than just freedom from lust but it also just as surely includes freedom from lust. There are also many more grievous sins than sins of lust, but lust precisely because of the way it falsifies love touches a person in his or her intimacy, wounds him in his capacity for self-giving, sacrificial love, and has a unique capacity for causing spiritual blindness.

The path to union with God, however, goes by way of humility, truth, and loving obedience to his will; in the Mass, we walk this path to union in a special way in the penitential rite (humility), the liturgy of the word (truth), and the sacrifice (obedience), which prepares us for communion. (To be continued)

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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