When making life choices, turn to the Eucharist

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Go to a rock concert and feel the pulse of the sound. Go to a ball game and cheer with the fans. Go to your closest friend and know unconditional love. Go to the Eucharist and become Eucharist.

The worship experiences of celebrating Mass and spending time with Jesus in the tabernacle place us in direct contact with the God whose will we want to know. We even become what we eat. No wonder we will find great help with life choices if we turn to the Eucharist.

If I were teaching a course titled Discernment 101, I would require a weekly account of time spent before the tabernacle: “one paragraph double-spaced on the topic of being present with the One whom we want to serve.” My rationale would be what I call “spiritual osmosis.”

Spiritual osmosis means I align myself to Jesus, ready to take in his attitudes and virtues, eager to imbibe his words, making my mind the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). With a Bible in hand (or nothing at all), I simply situate myself in the presence of the Eucharist, begin with a short prayer or scripture passage, and then listen. When good thoughts come to me, I trust that they are from God. If no thoughts come, I simply say, “OK, God, I wasn’t hearing much today, but I’ll be back.”

For a couple reasons I don’t worry when I don’t “hear” anything. First, my relationship with Jesus resembles my relationship with my closest friends. When friends have problems, they may tell me their troubles. Listening, I look with sympathy, nod my understanding, perhaps shed a tear or give a hug, and promise my prayer and support. The conversation may solve the problem. Yet I haven’t said a word! In a similar way, we can take our problems to Jesus in the tabernacle and know we will be heard by our Friend.

The second reason I don’t need to be worried about not hearing God’s voice is that the real test lies not in the prayer, but in what I do after the prayer. When I leave a church or chapel after Mass or private prayer, I know that the experience “counted,” because God isn’t outdone in generosity. Certainly God blesses the gift of my time in prayer. I see this invisible grace by noting my later actions. Matthew’s gospel claims, “You will know them by their fruits” (7:20). Just as a good apple tree bears good apples, so does a good Christian bear Christlike attitudes and actions.

The discernment needed to know whether I am doing what God wants stems from aligning myself to my Source, rooting myself in my Ground, doing the actions of the God who acts in me, and having the attitudes of the mind of Christ.

Spiritual osmosis
Through “spiritual osmosis” in the presence of Wisdom I become wise. In the presence of Love I become loving. In the presence of the Healer I become healed and able to reach out to a hurting world. In the presence of the Teacher I am taught and better equipped to share what I’ve learned.

Put “spiritual osmosis” in your week. The next time you are with Jesus in the tabernacle, you may wish to include these thoughts:

  • Here I am. What do you want to tell me, Jesus?
  • Jesus, I’m really listening. Please speak to me. 
  • Jesus, I’m restless. I believe that in you I will find peace.
  • Decisions, decisions, decisions! Thank God, you’re the answer!
But is discernment really this simple? Is this all it takes—to be in the presence of the Eucharist? Well, it’s a good start, just as showing up for class is a great way to begin a college education. When I sit before Jesus in the tabernacle, I’m where he wants me to be. I’ll admit that I’ve warmed pews many more times than I’ve “really prayed,” but I’m willing to take my chances that on some rare occasions I will experience God in a way that will change me forever.

Sometimes God is so very real that I know I have been transformed and have become a “transformer” in God’s kingdom—someone empowered to conduct God’s grace to the world. Then there are all the other times when long periods of distraction are interspersed with prayerful one-liners at best. When meditation is more siesta than contemplation, I’m tempted to think, “That was a waste of time” until I recall that God doesn’t measure—at least, I don’t think so. With God there is completeness, unconditional love, immeasurable goodness, and abundance of gifts.

I am certain that God blesses me the pew-warmer and me the saint. Why? Because God can’t do anything else and still be God. God is infinitely more accepting than the most loving parent. If a father or mother is completely happy with a child’s dandelion or scribbled picture, then God is completely happy over our attempts at prayer or discernment or witnessing or serving—regardless of feelings or results. If I feel I got nothing from prayer, God still blesses my generous gift of time. Imperceptibly I’m transformed despite my fatigue or distraction in prayer or my guilt afterwards.

Mass is action
Our private prayer before Jesus in the tabernacle nourishes us and aids us as we determine our life path. Consuming the Eucharist at Mass does the same. And the more actively we’re involved at Mass, the more we gain. When going to church, instead of saying, “I’m going to Mass,” say “I’m going to make Mass. I’m going to make church.” Realize that Mass is much more than a sacred thing; it’s an action. Then do all the verbs that Eucharist requires: welcome, greet, listen, respond, sing, praise, process, eat and drink, go out to evangelize.

Weekly Mass is a premier way to align myself with God by spending an hour feasting at the table of his Word and Body. Being fully involved more readily makes the Mass an opportunity for discernment. Whether the Mass experience is boring or uplifting, these questions are appropriate for your reflection:

  • How do the readings speak to me? How can I live their message in my life? What words strike me, disturb me, excite me, confuse me? Could these words be linked to my life decisions? (Caution: Don’t use scripture simplistically, as in, “Today’s reading is the wedding at Cana, so God must want me to be married.”) 
  • Do I realize that when all partake of the same food, we are one body in Christ? How does God want me to increase the unity of our one world? How can I be Christ’s presence in the world today?
  • Do I understand that like Jesus Christ himself, I come both to be fed and to be “food” for others? While sitting down at the table of Christ’s Word and Body and being nourished and strengthened, I am simultaneously creating the conditions whereby I can sustain others. Am I willing to let others be nourished by my self-offering of time, talent, resources? Am I allowing the sacrifice of the Mass to transform me into a living sacrifice for others? 
  • Eucharist does not satisfy my hunger. I want more and more of God and the things of God. Could this desire for the “more” indicate that Christ may be calling me to a closer following of him? Can I picture myself leading God’s people in praise and thanksgiving as a priest or deacon? Do I feel within myself a willingness to let God consume me—perhaps as a religious sister or brother, spending my days with AIDS patients, children in a classroom, refugees, abandoned children, or hungry people? 
  • As I offer Jesus together with the priest, do I offer myself? Do I say with Jesus in his agony in the garden: “Yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)?
Eucharist is the source of everything and the goal of everything; it’s like a fountain and mountain for the discernment process. We climb upward and are tempted to say, “Ah, what’s the use?” Yet we persevere, because if we do not seek, there is nothing for God to guide. The process is so complex, our motives can be so mixed, and helpful consultation may not be available. These times of uncertainty, longing for clarity, and tentative steps can all be brought to the Eucharist. These are my offerings: fact-finding, journaling, considering options, meeting with spiritual directors, sorting feelings.

Discernment of our life path is like a fountain cascading into a roaring river. We dare to jump in, knowing not where we will land, but trusting in God’s loving arms to catch us and raise us up. Eucharist is our mountain, the pinnacle of our relatedness to God here on earth. Eucharist is our fountain, from which all good gifts come, including making life decisions.
Sister M. Valerie Schneider is a Sister of Notre Dame of the Toledo, Ohio province. She is the co-director of Lial Renewal Center in Whitehouse OH.




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