MILLARE: Eucharistic Hope

April 13, 2021

We are now over a year into the pandemic that seems to never end. The year 2020 and the 2021 extended edition have been a source of suffering as we have been challenged to have hope in the midst of suffering, sickness, death, job loss, injustice, political upheaval, division and a winter storm.

Each person and every household has encountered the cross in a magnified way that we all long for relief in varying ways. With the Psalmist, we have all cried out: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13:1). Our Lord’s enduring presence in the Holy Eucharist reminds us that we have not been abandoned.

 poor farmer was asked by St. John Vianney what he did as he spent each day after Mass with our Lord in the Eucharist. His response was: “I look at him, and he looks at me” (cf. CCC, 2715). Such a simple response from a humble, hard-working peasant offers us a reason to hope, especially during difficult times. As Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus continues to abide with us in the gift of the Eucharist.

The pandemic pulled back the curtain further on a great mental health crisis. During the month of June 2020, the CDC reported that based upon a population-based survey of 5,000 Americans, 25% of young adults (ages 18 to 24) seriously contemplated suicide. Social isolation has led to an increase in the various “deaths of despair” (Anne Case and Angus Deaton) because people have lost hope. People turn to alcohol, drugs, work, pornography, etc., to fill up the vacuum opened up by despair. The Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Kheriaty describes the impact of hope upon our lives:

“Hope cannot be delivered by a medical prescription. Yet, we know it is essential for mental health. Hope allows us to live today, here, now, even as it orients us toward the future. Those who survived the Nazi concentration camps later recalled that death camp prisoners knew whenever a fellow prisoner had abandoned the last vestiges of hope. The despair could be seen in his eyes and countenance, in the very way that he carried himself. In time, the prisoners developed a name for such people: ‘the walking dead.’ Before long, the person who had lost hope would stop eating or drinking, would come down with a terminal infection, or would straggle and be shot. We cannot live without hope.”

Hope has a name and a face: Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We need communion in the midst of an isolating culture that drives us to live “alone together” (Sherry Tuckle). People should be reminded of the gift of friendship and presence offered to them by Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Now more than ever, we must call all our anxieties upon Christ who cares for us (cf. 1 Peter 5:7).

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “Hope does not disappoint us” (5:5). This is true for us to the extent that we remember that hope is present with and for us in the Blessed Sacrament. Our lives must become extensions of the Liturgies that we have participated in so that others may come to know His love through our witness, our kindness and our mercy.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Damien of Molokai, St. Katherine Drexel and the countless witnesses of saints have demonstrated that our love for Christ in the Eucharist opens us up to charity towards those in need. Our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist enables us to become a concrete witness to hope through our charitable love for neighbor.

The vaccine for the division and loneliness is the presence of Christians who have truly become like Christ, whom they have encountered in the Eucharist. This can only take place if we first place more of our hope in our Eucharistic Lord by spending more time with Him in daily Mass, frequent spiritual communions, visits and holy hours. The more we look at Him and our Lord, in turn, looks at us, the more we may become like Him, and we can share with others a reason for our hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). †

Roland Millare is the theology department chair at the Aquinas House at St. John XXIII College Preparatory.