December 7, 2016

Would You Walk Away?

[This is a guest post from Norine.]

The woman serving as extraordinary minister reached into the ciborium and grabbed a host. At that moment, something white seemed to fly out. We both saw it. It flew off, falling to my left, her right. We looked at each other.

“Body of Christ,” she said.
“Amen,” I said, and I received on my tongue the host from her hand.
We looked at each other.
Then we both looked down. We looked around our feet. Nothing. We looked at each other. Then Father, serving the other line and unaware of the flying white thing, stopped and looked at me. His eyes glared. They said, “Go!” I looked at the woman. I considered the line of people behind me.
Did I believe that wasn’t really the Body of Christ? If no, then I could walk away.
Did I believe that was really the Body of Christ? If yes, then I dare not.
 I am the bread of life.  — John 6:48
I grew up Catholic. I made my first communion in second grade with all the other kids. I remember singing the Our Father over and over for practice. I don’t remember whether we were told the bread we were getting was Jesus. I went to Catholic school in 7th and 8th grade and heard the word “transubstantiation” for the first time. I was intrigued by the word. It was long and hard to say. I think we practiced saying it. I don’t remember what the teacher said it meant. I went to Catholic high school, where we had occasional Masses. I remember a day my non-Catholic friend went to receive communion even though I knew she shouldn’t. She went because the upperclassman serving as extraordinary minister was someone we thought was really cute. I didn’t stop her.
I went to a non-Catholic college, but I went to the Catholic center where volunteers baked the communion bread, leavened and whole wheat. I remember so many crumbs.
It wasn’t until I was 24 on Holy Thursday that it finally sunk in. I thought in wonder, “I think that piece of bread is actually supposed to be Jesus. I think we really believe that.” That changed everything.
I started to visit the chapel. I could actually pray in front of Him. Like, in person. That became real to me. I always went to Sunday Mass, even through college, but it meant something else now. I was actually with Him. He was actually there.
The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was a great consolation after I married and our newborn daughter was diagnosed as having a tumor. She had surgery and later chemotherapy. What a great gift that we were in a Catholic hospital. We often had our little one toddle with us down to the chapel, IV pole in tow. To be in His presence and plead for our daughter during treatment was extraordinary. I know He heard us.
And then, during my little one’s hospitalization for another chemotherapy, I had an allergic reaction. When her blood counts were good, I went to see an allergist, who gave me a test. I went into anaphylaxis on the test, so great was my allergy to grass. The doctor assured me anyone this allergic to grass also had an anaphylactic reaction allergic to wheat. I took all the wheat things out of my diet and tried it again two weeks later. He was right. I was allergic.
I cried at first for cupcakes and donuts, but on Sunday I realized I was also allergic to Jesus. The Eucharistic Jesus in the form of wheat.
 My Father gives you the true bread from heaven — John 6:32
This was where I really found out Jesus is in that bread. I went to the chapel and cried every day. I could not receive a low-gluten host because it still contained wheat. I could sometimes receive the Precious Blood if I was first so wheat did not contaminate the cup. If I had to sit in the back of the church for Mass, I did not receive. Most daily Masses did not offer the Precious Blood. You don’t know how much you want something until you can’t have it.
The Eucharistic Jesus, whom I could not receive, waited for me day after day in the chapel. Before the tabernacle, I contemplated why Someone so powerful would choose the form of food, why He would choose only to move when the priest or extraordinary minister moved Him, why He would choose to be bread and not popcorn or a potato chip, why He chose to be locked in the tabernacle. Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
I dove into biblical accounts of bread and wheat, farming and feasts. Jesus, our perfect nourishment to give us strength for the journey (1 Kings 19:7). Jesus, the kernel of wheat who dies and bears abundant fruit (John 12:24). Jesus, the bread from Heaven (John 6:58). Jesus, who exults and perfects the bread, which after the Fall of humankind, God said we would eat only by the sweat of our brow (Genesis 3:19). Jesus, whose Heaven is our banquet, a wedding feast (Revelation 19:9).
I have to admit, I was jealous of others who could receive Him. Did they know what they were getting? They were taking Him home and to work and I couldn’t. They could treasure Him and talk to Him all day long and I couldn’t. The Eucharistic Jesus became what I desired most.
By Summer 2013, it was five years since I found out I had an anaphylactic reaction to wheat. During a daily Mass, I begged Him to let me receive again. I heard Him say in my heart, “Come.”
I was scared. Would I need my epi pen if I heard wrong? I was alone with my daughters, one six-years old (declared cancer-free at age 4) and the other an infant. Would the girls be okay if something happened to me? I decided I heard correctly and that I would believe Him. I got in line with my girls and received my Eucharistic Lord. I returned to the narthex (where loud babies sometimes have to go) and I cried. The Lord gave me a miracle. I had no allergic reaction to Him. Not then and not ever again.
 I am the living bread that came down from heaven — John 6:51
I cherished the opportunity to receive the Eucharist after so many years of not being able. I tried to attend Mass as often as I could. During one Saturday Mass, the Lord tested me... [To read the rest of this story, click over to ATX Catholic.]