Adoration and Evangelization
Pope John Paul II – Apostle of the New Evangelization
Pope John Paul II once said: “In order to evangelize the world, we need experts in celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Holy Eucharist”. (John Paul II – Message for World Mission 04.19.2004) The Church needs deeply Eucharistic souls to enter into the inner sanctuary of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and to draw from that infinite source of divine grace, the power to go out and to pierce the darkness of our world with a proclamation of the luminous truth of the Gospel. Only in and through the Eucharistic Mystery will we find the light that will transfigure us and the fire that will consume us to such a degree that we will once again become unstoppable apostles of Jesus Christ.
In the third chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark we read that the apostles were those called to be with Jesus and to be sent out preaching. (Mk. 3:14) Nothing has changed. We are called to spend time with the same Christ and when our souls have been flooded with His peace and joy, to go out and make Him known in the world. To make Christ known we must first truly know Him; and in order to know Him, we must spend time in the light of His Presence, meditating on His Holy Word. There is no greater way of spending time with Christ than in Eucharistic Adoration, since the manner in which Christ is present in the Eucharistic is the most powerful mode of His presence that we can possibly encounter in this life. Christ is indeed present to the Church in many ways but in the Eucharist He is substantially present, in the flesh! As the Catechism teaches us, this mode of presence is completely unique. (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1373, 1374)
In the Eucharist Jesus is present in His Sacred Humanity, in the Body which He took from the Most Holy Virgin Mary. Although His presence is mysterious and unique in all of creation, He is nonetheless really present, whole and entire, in all of His “physical reality”, as Pope Paul VI once put it in the document Mysterium Fidei (no.46). He who is seated at the right hand of the Father in all His Majestic Glory is truly alive and present in every single consecrated Host. The consecration of the Eucharistic Species was indeed the greatest of all the miracles Christ worked. As the Manna, a mere symbol of the Eucharist, once fell miraculously from the heavens in the Sinai desert, the Sacred Host, the Hidden Manna which Jesus speaks of in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 2:17) is a little piece of Heaven which has fallen to earth. The more we have faith in this reality, the more grace we will receive when we come into His Holy Presence. The saints are people who do not simply believe in the Real Presence in some vague kind of way, they see Christ with the deep interior gaze of the Holy Spirit and thus they are enflamed and transformed by His Holy Power. It was this gaze that would lead St. Jean Vianney to cry out: “He is there” while pointing to the Tabernacle. It was this gaze that Pope John Paul II would call Eucharistic Amazement and it is this gaze that makes us understand that we have the same privilege as those who gazed upon Christ 2000 years ago, only now our reward is greater since we believe without having seen. So we should go and spend as much time as we possibly can in front of the Living Lord Jesus and then like the apostles we will find ourselves incapable of remaining silent about Him. Our Adoration Chapel will become for us a New Galilee, the Holy Land, sanctified by the presence of the same Jesus who walked upon it 2000 years ago. Evangelization will become our natural manner of communicating, since we naturally speak about whatever we love and whatever amazes us.
With this in mind Pope John Paul II also said during the Eucharistic Congress in Seville: “Join me in asking Jesus Christ the Lord, who died for our sins and rose for our salvation, that as a result of this Eucharistic Congress the whole Church may be strengthened for the New Evangelization which the whole world needs: new, also because of its explicit and deep reference to the Eucharist as the centre and source of Christian life, as the seed and requisite of fellowship, justice, and service to all humanity, starting with those who are most needy in body and in spirit. Evangelization through the Eucharist, in the Eucharist and from the Eucharist: these are three inseparable aspects of how the Church lives the mystery of Christ and fulfils her mission of communicating it to all people.”
The New Evangelization will be a fruit of Eucharistic love and it will have as its ultimate goal the drawing of all people to an intimate encounter with the Eucharistic Lord. It is insufficient to merely lead souls to make an act of faith in Jesus the Lord and Saviour. This is merely the beginning of the spiritual life and the path to sanctity, but as we know this little fire will need to be fanned into a strong and steady flame over the years. For this to happen, souls must discover the hidden presence of the Word Incarnate in the Eucharist. Only when this treasure of all treasures has been discovered will the soul be set on the straight path to holiness and eternal life. Souls who become faithful adorers soon become faithful and constant friends of Jesus Christ. The demands of the Christian life become an easy yoke and a light burden, once He who is the Holy of Holies gives us His own strength, through the daily Eucharist encounter. So we must lead the souls we evangelize, little by little, to recognize the Holy Face of Jesus, hidden behind the Eucharistic veil.
The saints teach us that apostolic fruitfulness is rooted in Eucharistic love. Blessed John Paul II himself was an extraordinary herald of the Gospel who drew souls to Jesus, wherever he set his foot. In Pope John Paul II the Lord sent us a model for the New Evangelization. It was his deep holiness and interior union with the Will of God that made him a powerful witness of Jesus Christ. With the fervour of a new St. Paul, he travelled to the ends of the earth as an indomitable fisher of men. With the fire of St. Peter, who drew three thousand men to their knees in repentant adoration of the Risen Lord on the morning of Pentecost, Blessed John Paul’s witness drew the multitudes back to the House of the Father. After a single encounter with him, young people would give themselves over to living out the demands of the Christian life. Young men whose hearts were divided would at last respond to their priestly calling after merely glimpsing this great man of God. A moment in the light of the saintly Pope’s presence would lead lifelong sinners to reconsider the state of their souls before God. What was the secret of his deep holiness? It was rooted in a deep spiritual life which itself was based upon two unshakeable pillars. The first was his well-known devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. His first words every morning “Totus Tuus” were words of filial love addressed to the Heart of his Heavenly Mother to renew his act of total consecration to her. He once said that discovering the masterpiece of the “True Devotion to Mary” written by St. Louis de Montfort was a turning point in his life. It raised him to a new spiritual plane and became for him the short, straight and easy path to union with Christ. From that moment forth he would make of his entire existence a pure gift of love to Jesus through Mary. He became a priest of the Heart of Mary, formed in that blazing furnace of love in which she plunges those souls who abandon themselves to her, in imitation of the Little Eternal Word made flesh.
The second pillar of Pope John Paul the Great’s spirituality was a consequence of his consecration to Mary and it was of course his deep devotion to the Eucharistic Lord. The Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary has only one movement and that is to lead souls straight to the Heart of Jesus Christ and Him Eucharistic. This is why Pope John Paul II throughout his entire life was known to spend long periods of time in contemplation of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. As a bishop and later as Pope he would even write much of his work before the Blessed Sacrament and his secretaries tell us that they would sometimes find him lying prostrate before the Tabernacle in the middle of the night. Before each of his missionary journeys he would spend prolonged periods in Eucharistic Adoration. This is why when he arrived in a country the presence of the Lord was radiating from his very person. Those who encountered the Holy Father would say that it was like coming into contact with one of the apostles of old, with somebody who didn’t just know about Christ but who knew him personally. Pope John Paul wasn’t present with Jesus 2000 years ago, like St. Peter and the other Apostles, but thanks to the Blessed Sacrament he was able to spend just as much time as the Apostles in the personal presence of the Lord, being sanctified and enlightened by the same Master. That is why when he spoke hearts were touched and converted. His secretaries say that they began to realize he was a true saint when they watched people being transformed after a single encounter with him. There were even accounts of miracles in his life as in the days of the first Apostles.
The renowned French journalist, André Frossard, who himself had a miraculous conversion before the Eucharist exposed, tells us how he felt when he first saw Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. He writes: “We had heard he was from Poland. I had the impression that he had just arrived from the shores of Lake Galilee where he had left behind his nets to follow the Lord. Never did I feel so close to the Gospel. Neither for the crowd, who were stunned in the St. Peter’s Square, their eyes fixed upon a new light, nor for my neighbours who were crying, nor for myself, was doubt possible. Christianity was about to restart! Once again it had burst forth from the tomb that the world had thought was definitively sealed. This Pope would be the one to renew Christianity and the hope which had vanished came back to us with force. (…) This would be a Pope from the lineage of the First Apostles.”
In Pope John Paul II the Lord has given us a great model for the New Evangelization. At the Eucharistic Congress in Seville he told us that the evangelization will be new in so far as it will have the Eucharist as its center. If we are to bring the lost sheep back to the Good Shepherd as Pope John Paul II so wonderfully did, we should imitate this modern apostle by consecrating ourselves to Our Lady and by allow ourselves to be transfigured by the light which shines from the Eucharistic Face of Jesus.