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Last week, all the priests of our diocese were out of town for three days to attend a continuing education course together. While celebrating the morning mass the day after we returned to our parishes, our deacon brought over the ciborium from the tabernacle prior to communion and I did a double take after he opened the cover of the ciborium. As I looked into the ciborium, I noticed that there was not a single whole host in it--only a few tiny pieces and crumbs. After mass, I was informed that beginning on the second day of our continuing education days, the ministers had to break the hosts into pieces in order to distribute communion to those attending the services. Someone remarked, then, "This is why we need more of you guys [the priests]."
While in the sacristy discussing the small pieces of host, this thought passed through my mind, "We have thousands of unconsecrated hosts in the drawer. They look like and taste like consecrated hosts, yet, they are not Eucharist." Someone who does not believe in the Eucharist may say, "Why don't you guys just pass out the unconsecrated hosts? People can't tell the difference." That was how the world viewed Jesus when he began preaching. He looked like a man, talked like a man, and yet he claimed he was God. From the appearance alone, people couldn't tell the difference, so they rejected him.
In our Second Reading, St. Peter invites us to see Jesus beyond his appearances. He said, "Beloved, come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God..." (1 Pt 2:4) How precious was Jesus in the sight of God? Jesus himself said in the Gospel today, "I am the way and the truth and the life. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." What a great privilege for us to see Jesus in the Eucharist, and thereby see our Heavenly Father. Even though Jesus appears to us in the ordinary appearance of bread, we feel the divine presence in that small host.
St. Peter invites us not only to see Jesus beyond his appearance, but invites all of us to see ourselves beyond our appearances. He says, "...and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." We Catholics believe that even the tiniest piece of the Eucharist contains in its entirety the body, the soul, and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, even the tiniest pieces are precious beyond measure. And for Jesus, even the least one of us, whether we are least by age, by size, by wealth, or by talents, are precious to Him beyond measure.
Several months ago, a young man in his late 20's came to my office distraught and seeking counsel. I noticed that he had a very large tattoo of a skull on his forearm. As he described what was going on his life, he said, "I feel worthless." I thought to myself, 'The tattoo expresses what he believes about himself.' In the course of conversation, he said that when he was just 8 years old, his aunt said to him, "You'll grow up to be nothing." Those hurtful words stuck with him throughout his young adulthood and prevented him from seeing himself as God sees him. In my teenage and young adulthood years, I also struggled with similar self-destructive thoughts and sometimes still wonder to myself what God ever saw in me that he chose me to be a priest? Yet St. Peter says to us that we, like Our Lord, is "living stone to be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood."
God invites us to see ourselves from His perspective and not by the worldly measures. Are we small, unknown, and unimportant? Just as the tiniest piece of Eucharist is precious beyond measure, the littlest of us are precious in His eyes.