On the night our Redeemer took leave of His disciples to go to His death, as they were weeping for grief at the coming separation from their beloved Master, Jesus comforted them, saying what He now says to us: "My children, I am going to die for you to show you the love I bear you, but even in death I will not leave you alone. As long as you remain on earth I will remain with you in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Come to me... and I will refresh you!
I. Come to me, all ye that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you (Matt. xi. 28). Our loving Saviour, being about to quit this world, after having completed the work of our Redemption by His death, would not leave us alone in this valley of tears. St. Peter of Alcantara says: "No tongue would suffice to describe the greatness of the love which Jesus bears to each soul; this loving Spouse being about to depart from this world, wishing that His absence should not make us forget Him, left us as a memorial the Most Holy Sacrament, in which He Himself remains; not willing that there should be any pledge between us but Himself to keep the memory of Him alive in our hearts." This great proof of the love of Jesus deserves, therefore, great love on our part; and for this reason He has been pleased, in recent times, to institute the festival in honour of His Most Sacred Heart, as He revealed to His holy servant, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, in order that, by our homage and love, we might offer some return for His loving dwelling upon our altars, and might thus, at the same time, atone for the contempt and insults which He has received, and still receives, in this Sacrament of love from heretics and bad Christians.
Jesus has left us Himself in the Most Holy Sacrament: first, that He might be found by all; secondly, that He may give audience to all; thirdly, that He may grant favours to all. And first, He is on so many different altars that He may be found by all who desire to find Him. On the night on which our Redeemer took leave of His disciples to go to His death, as they were weeping in grief, thinking of their separation from their beloved Master, He comforted them by saying what He now says to us: "My children, I am going to die for you, to show you the love I bear you: but even in death I will not leave you alone; as long as you remain on earth I will remain with you in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. I leave you My Body, My Soul, My Divinity, My whole Self: as long as you remain on earth I will not separate Myself from you." Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world (Matt. xxviii. 20). St. Peter of Alcantara writes that the Spouse would not leave His spouse solitary during His long absence; wherefore He has left us this Sacrament, in which He Himself remains — the best companion He could leave us. The heathens imagined to themselves many gods; but they could not invent a god more loving than our God, or one who remains so near to us and helps us with so much love: Neither is there any other nation so great, that hath gods so nigh them, as our God is present to all our petitions (Deut. iv. 7). This passage the Church applies to our Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament.
Behold, then, Jesus Christ remaining on our altars, as if confined in so many prisons of love! The Priest takes Him from the tabernacle and places Him on the throne, or gives Him in Communion, and when he replaces Him and closes the tabernacle, Jesus is content to remain enclosed there night and day. But why, my dearest Redeemer, dost Thou stay there even at night, when people close the doors and leave Thee alone? It would be enough to be there in the daytime only; but no, He is pleased to remain also the whole night, awaiting the morning, that He may be immediately found by those who seek Him. The spouse in the Canticles went about seeking her Beloved, and asking those she met, Have you seen him whom my soul loveth? (Cant. iii. 3); and not finding Him, she raised her voice, saying, Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where thou liest in the midday (Cant. i. 6). The spouse could not find Him then, because the Most Holy Sacrament did not exist; but now if a soul wishes to find Jesus, she need only go to some parish-church or Monastery, and there she will find the Beloved One awaiting her. There is no village however poor, no Monastery of Religious, that has not the Blessed Sacrament; and in all these places the King of Heaven is content to dwell, enclosed in a case of wood or of stone, often quite alone, with hardly a lamp, and with no one to stand before Him. "O Lord," exclaims St. Bernard, "this does not become Thy majesty." "It matters not," replies Jesus; "if this be not befitting My majesty it befits My love."
I love Thee, O Jesus, my Supreme Good, Who above all other goods dost deserve our love. Grant that I may forget myself and all things to remember only Thy love, and to spend whatever life may remain to me solely in pleasing Thee. Grant that from this day forward I may find no greater delight than in remaining at Thy feet; there may I burn with love of Thee! Mary, my Mother, obtain for me a great love towards the Most Holy Sacrament; and if thou seest me negligent, remind me, I beseech thee, of the promise I now make of visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament every day.
II. What tender love do pilgrims feel in visiting the holy church of Loretto, or the Holy Places in the Holy Land — the Stable of Bethlehem, Calvary, the Holy Sepulchre, — where Jesus Christ was born, or lived, or died, or was buried! But how much more tender should our love be when we are in a church, in the presence of Jesus Himself, Who remains in the Most Holy Sacrament. The Blessed John Avila used to say that he could find no more devout or consoling sanctuary than a church in which Jesus is veiled in His Sacrament; and Father Balthazar Alvarez used to weep at seeing the palaces of princes full of people, and the churches, in which Jesus dwells, so empty and deserted. O God, if our Lord had left Himself to us in only one church in the world — in that of St. Peter's at Rome, for example — and there on only one day of the year, how many pilgrims, how many nobles and monarchs would make every effort to have the happiness of being there on that day, to pay their court to the King of Heaven come back to earth! What a splendid tabernacle of gold and gems would be there prepared for Him! With what illuminations would that visit of Jesus Christ be celebrated on that day! "But no," our dear Redeemer says, "I will not remain only in one Church, nor on one single day; nor will I require such riches, or such brilliant displays. I will be present continually every day, and in all places, wherever My faithful are to be found, that they may come to Me without difficulty and at any hour they wish."
If Jesus Christ had not Himself thought of this refinement of love, who could ever have thought of it? If when He was going up to Heaven some one had said to Him: "Lord, if Thou wilt show Thy love to us, remain on our altars, under the species of bread, that we may there find Thee whenever we choose," how daring would this request have seemed! But what no man could ever have thought of our Lord has both thought of and done. But alas, where is our gratitude for such favours? If a prince were to come from a distance to a country-place, that he might be visited by a peasant, how ungrateful would that peasant be if he would not go to him or went only for a passing visit!
O Jesus, my Redeemer, Beloved of my soul, how much it has cost Thee to remain with us in this Sacrament! Thou hadst first to suffer death, that Thou mightest remain on our altars; and then Thou hast had to suffer so many insults in this Sacrament, that Thou mightest help us by Thy presence. Yet how indolent, how negligent, we are in coming to visit Thee, though we know how much our visits please Thee, because Thou delightest to see us in Thy presence, that Thou mayest load us with gifts! Lord, forgive me, for I have been among these ungrateful ones. Henceforward, my Jesus, I will often visit Thee, and stay as long as I can in Thy presence, thanking Thee, and loving Thee, and seeking graces from Thee; since for this very purpose Thou dost remain hidden in our Tabernacles, and become our Prisoner of love. I love Thee, Infinite Goodness; I love Thee, O God of infinite love.
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