Tag: Fulfillment of All Desire

The Fulfillment of All Desire

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This abridged article originally appeared on Canadian Board Member Msgr. Gregory Smith’s blog on the Feast of Corpus Christi. It can be viewed here. This article also appeared in Renewal Ministries’ July 2019 newsletter.

By Msgr. Gregory Smith

It was a great joy to have Ralph Martin here for our parish mission and the annual retreat for the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s permanent diaconate community.

I’ve known Ralph for over twenty years. Forty years ago, his book Hungry for God taught me the priceless lesson that progress in prayer is the result of God’s gift, not my effort.

Nine years later, Ralph wrote Crisis of Truth. I read it in seminary and discovered life in the Church was probably going to be more difficult than I had thought. The errors he exposed in that book have since become increasingly evident in the Church.

Despite the influence and importance of these and many other books, I think most people consider his finest work to be The Fulfillment of All Desire. It is “destined to be a modern classic on the spiritual life.”

On this Feast of Corpus Christi, “the fulfillment of all desire” is a perfect theme for a homily.

I could easily devote this homily to the word “fulfillment.” In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas calls the Eucharist “the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles.” Fulfillment is a one-word summary of what the Scriptures tell us today.

The first reading describes sacrifices—specifically, communion sacrifices—that are intended to solemnize a covenant: a covenant sealed in blood. The blood is first poured on the altar, which represents God. Then it is splashed on the people, uniting them to the blood on the altar. In Exodus, “a union has been created from this blood relationship” and “the terms for preserving that relationship are spelled out” (The Collegeville Bible Commentary, 105).

Every ten-year-old Christian knows what happens next. Before Moses is even down the mountain, the people have already begun to worship the golden calf. To say this covenant is on shaky ground is an understatement.

But the Letter to the Hebrews shows us how the Blood of Christ initiates a new and perfect covenant. If there’s any doubt about that, we have the words of Jesus in the Gospel today: “This is my Blood of the Covenant” (Mk 14:24).

Fulfillment. Pure and simple.

But the word that really inspires my thoughts today is “desire.” It seems to me that the Eucharist must be desired to have its full effect in our lives, and that offers us an opportunity to ask ourselves whether the Eucharist truly is the fulfillment of our desire.

Do we long for it? Do we hunger for it?

We should. St. Thomas called the Sacrament the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all Christian miracles—in the same sentence he called it a “unique and abiding” consolation.

We priests and deacons can experience routine and over-familiarity. While giving Holy Communion to hundreds of people every Sunday, we sometimes wonder how many people approaching the altar have any of the feelings that St. Thomas expressed when he wrote, “O precious and wonderful banquet that brings us all salvation, contains all sweetness.” Do we experience “spiritual delight, tasted at its very source”?

One of my parish’s extraordinary ministers told me she sometimes feels sad at the absent-minded expressions of those who stand before her. It’s not what’s on our face, but what’s in our heart that matters—but it’s easy to wonder why we don’t look a little more enthusiastic, a little more reverent, or even slightly awe-struck as we approach the table of the Lord.

Perhaps St. Thomas’ Prayer Before Mass might increase our desire for this saving sacrament and our hunger for the Bread of Angels—so that we might receive not only the sacrament, but also its full grace and power.

“Almighty and Eternal God, behold I come to the sacrament of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As one sick I come to the Physician of life; unclean, to the Fountain of mercy; blind, to the Light of eternal splendor; poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.  Therefore, I beg of You, through Your infinite mercy and generosity, heal my weakness, wash my uncleanness, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness. May I thus receive the Bread of Angels, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, with such reverence and humility, contrition and devotion, purity and faith, purpose and intention, as shall aid my soul’s salvation.

“Grant, I beg of You, that I may receive not only the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord, but also its full grace and power. Give me the grace, most merciful God, to receive the Body of your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, in such a manner that I may deserve to be intimately united with His mystical Body and to be numbered among His members. Most loving Father, grant that I may behold for all eternity face to face Your beloved Son, whom now, on my pilgrimage, I am about to receive under the sacramental veil, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.”

Growing in Freedom

True Freedom[photo source]

Everything that exists is a gift from God. Yet oftentimes we look to the things and creatures created by God for a satisfaction and fulfillment that only God Himself can provide. When the soul wraps itself around the things and the people of this world looking for satisfaction or fulfillment that only God can give, it produces a distortion in itself, and in others as well. Many spiritual writers call the process of unwinding this possessive, self-centered, clinging, and disordered seeking of things and persons “detachment.” The goal of the process of detachment is not to stop loving the things and people of this world, but, quite to the contrary, to love them even more truly in God, under the reign of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Things and people become even more beautiful when we see them in this light. There are almost always painful dimensions in this process of “letting go” in order to love more, but it’s the pain of true healing and liberation. Christian detachment is an important part of the process by which we enter into a realm of great freedom and joy.

The Father communicates to Catherine of Siena some striking insights on why detachment is needed.

“For created things are less than the human person. They were made for you, not you for them, and so they can never satisfy you. Only I can satisfy you. . . . Do you want me to tell you why they suffer? You know that love always brings suffering if what a person has identified with is lost. These souls in one way or another have identified with the earth in their love, and so they have in fact become earth themselves. Some have identified with their wealth, some with their status, some with their children. Some lose me in their slavery to creatures. Some in their indecency make brute beasts of their bodies. . . . They would like to be stable but are not. Indeed they are as passing as the wind, for either they themselves fail through death or my will deprives them of the very things they loved. They suffer unbearable pain in their loss. And the more disordered their love in possessing, the greater is their grief in loss. Had they held these things as lent to them rather than as their own, they could let them go without pain. They suffer because they do not have what they long for. For, as I told you, the world cannot satisfy them, and not being satisfied, they suffer.”

…Catherine of Siena points out that even in this life the greedy, the envious, the revengeful, and the lustful are tortured by their disordered desires. They suffer through their own sinfulness, meriting nothing by it and refusing to heed the message of this suffering: to repent and return to the Father. Christians, in taking up the cross of Christ, can taste something of the joy of heaven in this life; so too, those who choose to follow their sinful desires take up “the devil’s cross, and taste the pledge of hell even in this life. Unless they reform they go through life weakened in all sorts of ways, and in the end receive death. They pass in hate through the gate of the devil and receive eternal damnation. . . . How deluded these souls are, and how painfully they make their way to hell—like martyrs of the devil!”

…The Life of a Christian is to be different than the life of the unbeliever. Like all human beings, Christians need certain things of this world to live, but Jesus calls us to be primarily occupied with living for the kingdom. If we do this, He promises that the things we need for life on this earth will be given as well.

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FADThe above excerpt was taken from Ralph Martin’s book The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints. For more great wisdom, pick up a copy today! Shop Now»