THE CONSUMMATION of love is “that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It was of you yourself that you were speaking, O Jesus, in saying these words. In order to give your life for me in the Eucharist, you have abandoned your Sacrament to the profanations of the wicked, and you come to me only by experiencing scorn and disrespect.. At the moment when your enemies are preparing you a crown of thorns, nails, and a cross, you are preparing for me a chalice of benediction and the Bread of heaven. Oh, how eloquently you speak to me now of the might of your love. Grant that it may enkindle my soul in this meditation.
Three things show forth Jesus’ love for us in the institution of the Eucharist:
I. THE CONTEMPT TO WHICH HE EXPOSES HIMSELF
“He knew well, before he instituted this sacrament of love, to how much contempt and profanation he was going to expose himself.” O my Savior, would that you might remain in heaven after you had ascended there! There, at least, “the angels would love you with a pure and perfect love”; but in the Eucharist the unbelievers pierce you again with nails, and bad Christians receive you unworthily, “some without contrition, others without desire of amendment, others, perhaps, with crime in their hearts.” He knows it, “but all this has no power to stop him; it is his will that his Body, his Soul, and his Divinity may be found in all places of the world, and that with him we may find every happiness.” He wills to be our life at his own expense — to be our adoration, our thanksgiving, our prayer, and our propitiation.
II. THE DAY ON WHICH HE INSTITUTED THIS SACRAMENT
“How great was the charity of Jesus Christ in choosing for the institution of the Eucharist the eve of the day on which he was to be put to death! At that moment all Jerusalem is on fire, all the populace enraged, all are plotting his ruin, and it is precisely at that moment that he is preparing for them the most unutterable pledge of his love. Men are weaving the blackest plots against him, and he is only occupied in giving them the most precious gift he has. They are only thinking of setting up an infamous cross for him that they may put him to death, and he is only thinking of setting up an altar that he may immolate himself every day for us. They are preparing to shed his Blood, and Jesus Christ wills that this same Blood shall be to us a draught of immortality for the consolation and happiness of our souls. Yes, we may say that Jesus Christ has loved us even to exhausting the riches of his love.”
III. SOME CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE INSTITUTION
“He chose, for the institution of the Eucharist, bread and wine, the food of all men, rich and poor, the strong as well as the languishing, to show us that this heavenly food is for all Christians,” small and great, vassals and kings. “Come to me, all you that suffer; no one is excluded from the feast that I prepare for you.”
He consecrates the wine in a chalice. “We read in the writings of St. John that the Apostle saw an angel to whom the eternal Father had given the cup of his wrath to pour out upon all nations (Rev 16:19); but here we see just the contrary. The eternal Father gives into his Son’s hands the cup of his mercy to be poured out upon all nations of the earth. Speaking to us of his adorable Blood, he says to us as to his Apostles: ‘Drink from it, all of you, and you will find therein the remission of your sins and eternal life.’ O happiness unutterable . . . O blessed fountain!”
“When Jesus Christ worked this great miracle” of the consecration, “he raised his eyes to heaven and gave thanks to his Father, showing us how much he desired that happy moment for us. ‘Yes, my children,’ our divine Savior seemed to say then, ‘my blood is impatient to be shed for you, my body burns with the desire to be torn for the healing of your wounds, and the thought of my suffering and death overwhelms me with joy, because you will find therein a remedy for all your ills.’ Oh, what love is there like this of a God for his creatures? 1
The Eucharist was the center toward which all Fr. Vianney’s thoughts and affections converged. He spoke of it in terms naive and full of poetry, such as love alone can find, and which, once heard, are never erased from the memory or the heart. The Eucharist was for him the adored Master who, before all others, had a right to his homage.
“I was ten years old,” wrote an ecclesiastic shortly after the death of the blessed Curé; “it was in 1820, and in the courtyard of the Collège de Meximieux, where I went to school, we were practicing throwing flowers for the Corpus Christi procession, when I saw approaching a priest of very simple, poor, and humble appearance. One of my companions said to us, ‘That is the Curé of Ars; he is a saint. . . . He lives on nothing but boiled potatoes.’ I regarded him with astonishment. When someone addressed a few polite words to him, he stopped a moment, and said, smiling kindly: ‘When you throw flowers before the Blessed Sacrament, my boys, hide your hearts in your baskets, and send them to Jesus Christ, among the roses.’
“Then, without paying any other visit, he crossed the courtyard and turned into the college chapel to salute the Master of the house in his tabernacle. I have forgotten nearly all the names of the schoolfellows I had then, and almost all that happened under my eyes: but the name of that priest, his visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and the words of my companion, have never gone out of my mind. I was especially struck (for I was very greedy) by the thought of a man living only on potatoes. I understood, without knowing why, that here was something rare and prodigious.”
O blessed Jean-Marie, pray for us and obtain for us grace to make amends, by a generous love, for the outrages that Jesus receives in the Blessed Sacrament.