THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
IX.-HOW MUCH JESUS CHRIST DESERVES TO BE LOVED BY US ON ACCOUNT OF THE LOVE HE HAS SHOWN US IN INSTITUTING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR.
St. Bernard caIls the Eucharist “the love of loves”; because this gift comprehends all the other gifts bestowed Upon us by our Lord-creation, redemption, predestination to glory-so that the Eucharist is not only a pledge of the love of Jesus Christ, but of Paradise, which He desires also to give us. “In this Divine Banquet,” says the Church, “a pledge of future glory is given us.” Hence St. Philip Neri could find no other name for Jesus Christ in this Sacrament save that of Love: and so, when the Holy Viaticum was brought to him he was heard to exclaim: “Behold my Love! Give me my Love!”
The Prophet Isaias desired that the whole world should know the tender inventions our God has made use of wherewith to make men love Him. And who could ever have thought-if He Himself had not done it-that the Incarnate Word would hide Himself under the appearance of bread, in order to become Himself our Food? “Does it not seem folly,” says St. Augustine, “to say: Eat My Flesh; drink My Blood?” When Jesus Christ revealed to His disciples the Sacrament He desired to leave them they could not bring themselves to believe Him; and they left Him, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? . . . This saying is hard, and who can hear it?-(John vi. 53, 61). But that which men could neither conceive nor believe the great love of Jesus Christ hath thought of and accomplished. Take ye and eat, said He to His disciples before He went to die; and through them to us all. Receive and eat: but what food shall that be, O Saviour of the world, which You desire to give us before You die? Take ye, and eat; this is my body. This is not earthly food; it is I Myself who give Myself entirely to you.
And oh, with what desire does Jesus Christ pant to come into our souls in the Holy Communion! With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer (Luke xxii. 15). So He spoke on that night in which He instituted this Sacrament of love. With desire I have desired: so did the excessive love He bore us cause Him to speak, as St. Laurence Justinian remarks: “These are the words of most burning love.” And in order that everyone might easily receive Him, He desired to leave Himself under the appearance of bread; for if He had left Himself under the appearance of some rare or very costly food, the poor would have been deprived of Him: but no, Jesus would hide Himself under the form of bread, which costs but little, and can be found everywhere, in order that all in every country might be able to find Him and receive Him.