When we gaze on the Blessed Sacrament, our Lord gives us this same look he gave Peter, a look of mercy. Pope Benedict XVI said earlier this year in an installment of his catechesis on prayer:
Luke the Evangelist has retained a further precious element of the events of the Last Supper that enables us to see the moving depth of Jesus’ prayer for his own on that night: his attention to each one. Starting with the prayer of thanksgiving and blessing, Jesus arrives at the Eucharistic gift, the gift of himself, and, while he is giving the crucial sacramental reality, he addresses Peter.
At the end of the meal, he says: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31-32).
Jesus’ prayer, when his disciples were about to be put to the test, helps them to overcome their weakness in their effort to understand that the way of God passes through the Paschal Mystery of the death and Resurrection, anticipated in the offering of the bread and the wine. The Eucharist is the food of pilgrims that also becomes strength for those who are weary, worn-out and bewildered. And the prayer was specially for Peter, so that once he had turned again he might strengthen his brethren in the faith.
Luke the Evangelist recalls that it was the very gaze of Jesus in seeking Peter’s face at the moment when he had just denied him three times which gave him the strength to continue following in his footsteps: “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord” (Lk 22:60-61).
Dear brothers and sisters, by participating in the Eucharist, we experience in an extraordinary manner the prayer that Jesus prayed and prays ceaselessly for every person so that the evil which we all encounter in life may not get the upper hand and that the transforming power of Christ’s death and Resurrection may act within us.
Isn’t this incredible? “And the prayer was specially for Peter, so that once he had turned again he might strengthen his brethren in the faith.”
A good part of my meditation this Holy Thursday night had to do with God drawing me deeper into prayer, that is: Praying for others. He reminded me, in fact, of specific people I have been called to pray for that I really haven’t. Not enough.
Do we pray ceaselessly? Is that sorta an embarrassing question to ask given the shameful answer many of us will have to give.
I already mentioned the priests — do we pray for them? When you consider how little so many of us pray for priests, it should be no wonder they are not all living saints.
The most wonderful thing is we do have the Eucharist. Christ does want to draw us deeper in the Paschal mystery — as often as we will come!
(And He even wants to teach us how to pray.)
He gives us everything we need. We just need to want it, receive it, treasure it.
St. John Vianney said:
Our Lord has said, Whatever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. We should never have thought of asking of God His own Son. But God has done what man could not have imagined. What man cannot express nor conceive, and what he never would have dared to desire, God in His love has said, has conceived, and has executed. Should we ever have dared to ask of God to put His Son to death for us, to give us His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink? If all this were not true, then man might have imagined things that God cannot do; he would have gone further than God in inventions of love! That is impossible. Without the Holy Eucharist there would be no happiness in this world; life would be insupportable. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive our joy and our happiness. The good God, wishing to give Himself to us in the Sacrament of His love, gave us a vast and great desire, which He alone can satisfy. In the presence of this beautiful Sacrament, we are like a person dying of thirst by the side of a river — he would only need to bend his head; like a person still remaining poor, close to a great treasure — he need only stretch out his hand. He who communicates loses himself in God like a drop of water in the ocean. They can no more be separated.
Take advantage of the great graces of Good Friday at a church near you. Go to confession(!), however long it has been. God wants to give us that same loving look He gave Peter. He is mercy. And mercy is ours, if we only let Him in.
And as the homilist at the church I attended Thursday night said: “God help us if we don’t.” God help us.