Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,
So often a spirit of presumption shapes our approach to God and is followed, perhaps more shamefully, with a spirit of ingratitude. We receive our Lord, the gift of the Holy Eucharist and His many graces, and yet so rarely if ever show gratitude for those gifts let alone consider the debt we owe Him. Our hearts are hardened and our minds oblivious to the thanksgiving that Christ offered His own Father when at last he was able to pour Himself out in love for us and unite Himself to us forever; this all in the face of the humiliations, outrages and offenses that He could so clearly see lay ahead. Daughters, what response will you make to this reality . . . when so many . . . including His own priests . . . approach and leave the altar with hearts hard as stone? You must seek to make your whole life a continuous act of thanksgiving. Furthermore, gratitude for the gift received and the avoidance of sin are not enough. No, "it is rather a case of acting towards Jesus with all the nobility of soul and with all the gentle considerateness becoming to a child of God and a disciple of Christ the Savior. Ah no! it is a case of meeting Him with all the generosity and magnanimity of which the heart of man is capable."
Tell your Lord of your love for Him. Offer him your poverty, humiliations; the drudgeries of daily life, sufferings and sickness and even your eventual death. Though small and insignificant these tokens if offered in love "will be changed into heavenly gold worthy of being formed into a diadem to crown His kingly brow . . . and your humiliations will be transformed into sweet smelling incense worthy of being burned in the censers of the angels before the very throne of God . . . whereas your sufferings will be changed into myrrh that will preserve from all taint of corruption your faith, your hope and your charity."
It was at the Last Supper, on the night before He died, that Jesus instituted the Blessed Sacrament. When the solemn moment came wherein He was to give Himself to us, His Sacred Heart overflowed with joyous affection; and He raised His eyes to His heavenly Father in thanksgiving that now at last He would have the happiness of binding Himself for all time to the hearts of men. It is indeed true, - in that sacred moment the Savior clearly foresaw all the humiliations, all the outrages and offenses, to which He would be subjected in the Sacrament of His supreme love . . but He thought more of the love than of the pain . . . He thought more, far more, of all that He could give to men than all that He had to expect from them . . . And divine sentiments of unutterable gratitude filled His very being! And why? . . . O the marvel of it! Because now it was made possible for Him to enrich souls of men with uncounted graces and numberless blessings.
Men give thanks - if they give thanks at all - only after benefits have been received . . . But Jesus gives thanks that now He may shower His favors upon men, His heavenly Father so ordaining. It is His greatest joy to make His creatures happy. He would make them happy even at the risk of receiving only ingratitude in return.
Yes; Jesus takes it for granted that His love will be repaid with ingratitude. But what a shame it would be for you to belong to the crowd of the ungrateful . . .what a shame! Jesus thanks the Father that He may be all yours and become all yours in Holy Communion . . . and you - what do you do? Are you truly grateful to Him for coming into your heart in Holy Communion, for being your constant Companion in the tabernacle there, for daily offering Himself for you in the unceasing Sacrifice of the Mass? Oh, be sure to remember this: if you wish honestly to pay your debts - the debts of gratitude that you owe to Jesus - you must be convinced that the short and often distracted thanksgiving that you make after Holy Communion does not suffice . . . it is not enough . . . more is needed. Simply your whole life must be a continuous act of thanksgiving for the untold benefits that you receive from Him in His adorable Sacrament. Nor is it merely a case of avoiding sin - ah no! that is not enough for a soul that is conscious of its Eucharistic dignity. Ah no! it is rather a case of acting towards Jesus with all the nobility of soul and with all the gentle considerateness becoming to a child of God and a disciple of Christ the Savior. Ah no! it is a case of meeting Him with all the generosity and magnanimity of which the heart of man is capable.
Jesus gives you His very Self; and He not only gives you His Divine Person, but together with it He likewise gives you His grace, His love, and His whole life. So, if there is even a spark of gratitude in your heart, you must feel bound to give Him in return all that you are, all that you have, all that you do. In a word, you must work for Him, and live and die for Him, and that with all the greater generosity, since He does not deprive you of the blessings of gratitude but lets you continue to enjoy them to the full. You give and give . . . and in giving thanks you nevertheless receive - the reward of a grateful heart.
Now you know wherein your duty lies. Enjoy gladly the earthly blessings that God gives you; but at the same time think, love, speak, and act out of gratitude towards Him. Rejoice in the gifts of His grace; but at the same time pray, meditate, and receive the Sacraments out of gratitude towards Him. Draw nearer to the grave with quiet peace, become old and wrinkled and bent, prepare yourself for death - in gratitude towards Him. All that you see, all that you have, all that you do, is little enough, as you know full well; but this little takes on infinite value when it is offered to Him with the tender love of a grateful heart. And you were to be pitied indeed, were you, because of the littleness of your gifts, to resist the pious promptings of a heart overflowing with affectionate gratitude.
Surely you must have been worried time and again because you could not make what you considered a worthy thanksgiving after Holy Communion . . . because you did not know what to say to the Savior in your visits to the Blessed Sacrament. But put aside this anxiety and regret now . . . put it aside . . . and in the future act in this way:
Tell the Savior, quite simply and confidingly, that you love Him . . . that you really do appreciate this greatness and the multitude of His benefits to you . . . that you would like to give Him the whole universe and even all heaven itself in return. Tell Him that you are only a poor little creature, so poor that you must content yourself with offering Him your littleness and your poverty. Then gather together all the bits of goodness that you can find in your heart and in your everyday life and assure Him that you are bringing them all to Him in thanksgiving. Tell Him that you give Him everything that you love, that you desire, that you fear . . . all that you do at home . . . your daily work and the drudgery of daily tasks . . . your bitter disappointments and those painful misunderstandings . . . your little sacrifices and humiliations . . . all the trials and troubles of life . . . the violence you must do to yourself . . . the inconveniences and sufferings of sickness . . . the deprivations of poverty . . . in short, everything that occupies your mind and heart, everything that causes you joy or sorrow, satisfaction or misgiving. Offer everything to Christ your Savior in gratitude for what He has given to you.
Perhaps a thanksgiving such as this seems too small and insignificant to you. It would no doubt be quite insignificant and inadequate to men who have no esteem or regard for anything except earthly gold . . . and the incense of the dust and ashes of the earth . . . But if you offer your poor little tokens of love to Jesus, they will be changed into heavenly gold worthy of being formed into a diadem to crown His kingly brow . . . and your humiliations will be transformed into sweet smelling incense worthy of being burned in the censers of the angels before the very throne of God . . . whereas your sufferings will be changed into myrrh that will preserve from all taint of corruption your faith, your hope and your charity.
Divine Savior, I beg of You and I beseech You by Your infinite love for my poor soul - fill my heart with that spirit of gratitude which fills Your own towards Your heavenly Father when You instituted the Blessed Sacrament. Let my heart be wholly imbued with this gratitude as often as I think of You, speak of You, or receive You in Holy Communion. And when the sacred Host rests upon my tongue, - O teach that tongue to speak words of thanks such as are due to You . . .
For it is truly meet and just, right and salutary, to render due thanks to the Lord our God.
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Guglielmo Reyna