A Fragile Gift


Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans. He is depicted as a great benefactor, one who risked himself for our good. Contrast this myth about fire with the truth about the Eucharist. Jesus too brings us a heavenly gift, but freely given, not stolen. Prometheus brought fire to warm the body. Jesus, giving his body, warms our souls with Charity. Prometheus brought light for guidance in a dark world. The Eucharist illumines our hearts, strengthens our spirit, and directs us to heaven. If the Greeks celebrated a myth, how much more we should celebrate the truth exceeding even the most imaginative mythologies. In the Eucharist, Jesus does not give a mere gift from heaven, but heaven itself.

Holy Thursday celebrates the Eucharist, our greatest treasure. From ancient times people have gathered around fires for safety, consolation and reflection. How many have gathered around the Eucharist and found a far more excellent flame? Daily, the faithful congregate before the Blessed Sacrament, experiencing its warmth, adoring the presence of their holy friend, hearing his consoling voice of wisdom whispering in the heart. Like the Israelites following the column of fire in the desert, so God’s people come to their Eucharistic Lord to find light, comfort and direction. Take a moment and consider all that the Eucharist has meant in your life. You will find that no other gift brings greater joy, hope or peace. No flame can match its light. But what if that light went out?

The most dramatic liturgical experience is Good Friday. Not one Mass is offered throughout the world. Every tabernacle lies open and empty. Jesus cannot be found. He is gone from us and his absence wearies the soul. It is a spiritual shock to be without his presence. One day is enough. But imagine if everyday was Good Friday. Imagine, everyday, in the churches throughout the world, tabernacles lying open and empty. Imagine if he was gone, always.

This year, no priests will be ordained for the Diocese of Providence. There will be no first masses offered. No first blessings or first confessions heard. This ought to distress us. The lack of a priestly ordination should be more shocking, more disturbing, than Good Friday itself. Without priests, the calendar is full of Good Fridays. Without priests, even Easter Sunday is a day without Jesus. When Prometheus brought fire from the gods, he put it into the hands of humans, entrusting them with its responsibility. Jesus has done the same with the Eucharist. He has entrusted it to us. He has put the gift of his abiding presence into our hands. Which means, if we are not careful, it could slip through our fingers.