by Jeremiah Hahn
"The Word of God is living and effective, sharper than a two-edged sword... -Hebrews 13:8
Liturgical time works differently in the Holy Land. While the Church continues to celebrate the season of Easter, pilgrims here celebrate Mass at different holy sites with readings particular to that site. For example, yesterday at the Mt. of Beatitudes, we heard the beginning of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. The goal is to put us, the congregation, in unique contact through God's Word with the Gospel then and in touch with grace now.
Yesterday I found myself on the grounds of a community dedicated to silence, prayer, and complete receptivity to God's infused grace. In a word, Carmel: home to a cloistered community of Carmelites. Inside their gift shop, I found a scapular (fitting, as the scapular devotion arose thanks to an English Carmelite named St. Simon Stock) with two images: the Sacred Heart and Mary holding her son in one hand and a scapular in the other.
Then I entered the Church and noticed a grotto under the high altar. On the grotto altar below was a statue of Elijah, plus the two same images of our Lord and our Lady. I felt prompted to place my newly purchased scapular on that altar, offering it to God. After that small gesture, I heard a few simple words in my mind: Offer yourself. There on the spot I renewed my consecration to the merciful love of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. Right then and there I knew that Jesus had spoken to me, offering me his compassionate love and asking me to reciprocate.
Today, we visited Emmaus. After walking through ruins, including an empty grave or two, I was struck by how our tour ended: as guests in a chapel with a Sister in adoration of the blessed sacrament. I felt my eyes open spiritually as one key line from the familiar Easter story of the risen Christ appearing to two disciples passed through my memory: Were not our hearts burning within us as he spoke to us on the road while he opened to us the Scriptures?
I realized Jesus is faithful. Even when I'm not feeling the comfort of his presence in prayer, he can still reach me through Scripture and through the sacrament of his Body and Blood. Scripture, the word of God, is uniquely capable of revealing to us the Word of God, Jesus Christ himself, especially in the context of the Mass and the Eucharist.
Not only that, but Jesus the divine Word longs to reach out and touch our hearts in unique ways all throughout our lives, and even all throughout the day. A good starting place to have this encounter is to approach the altar, both literally and metaphorically like I did yesterday. Another way that works if you (like me most days out of the year) are not a pilgrim is in Eucharistic adoration. The final way is by reading the word of God which is "sharper than a two-edged sword...able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart."
Jeremiah HahnJeremiah Hahn is a second-year theologian studying for the Diocese of Steubenville.