Bishop's Column

A Love Greater than Any Force of Nature

Like all of us, over this past week I’ve been praying for the victims of the terrible tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma May 20. I am praying especially for the parents of the nine children who died, and for the souls of the 15 men and women who lost their lives on that fateful day. Our prayers make a difference. We’re called to pray for the survivors and the dead alike, to commend them all to our Crucified Lord and his Sorrowful Mother.

There are devastating forces at work in this world—forces both natural and supernatural.

Last week we learned that in this life, all of our security, our hard work and our prudent planning, can be completely swept away in an instant by the awe-inspiring power of a tornado, earthquake, or hurricane. We should be humble before the forces of nature, since they show us the fragility of our earthly lives.

But we also know that these tremendous natural forces – the "elemental powers of the world," as St. Paul says – are not the greatest powers at work in God’s creation.

There is a power, a living energy, which infinitely surpasses the forces of this world. That power is the supernatural love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Nothing is stronger than the grace of God, his loving and transforming presence among us. This is not a metaphor, or a religious sentiment. It is a fact. Grace is stronger, more dynamic and more overwhelming, than any storm or whirlwind. Tidal waves and volcanic eruptions seem tiny and tame compared to God’s supernatural love for his children.

We do not know God’s reasons for permitting natural disasters like last week’s tornados in Oklahoma. But we do know "that in everything God works for good with those who love him." This is the power of grace.

St. Paul, who suffered much in his life, understood this fact well. "Neither death, nor life …" he said, "nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The energy of God’s love and grace cannot be seen or touched in ordinary ways. Because it is infinite and transcendent, it lies beyond the reach of our senses. We know it by faith rather than by sight, trusting in the reality of God’s powerful presence.

God’s grace can be seen and perceived, however, in the sacraments of the Church. A sacrament is a manifestation, through humble earthly means, of that supernatural love which is infinite, eternal, and all-powerful.

In all of the sacraments, but especially in Christ’s Body and Blood, we encounter "the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16) – a power greater than all the forces of nature combined.

Perhaps nothing in the entire universe is more awe-inspiring than the Holy Eucharist. Our minds cannot fathom the limitless might of this sacrament, which is Christ’s presence – His divine power and glory. If we truly understand the Blessed Sacrament, we have no choice but to worship Him – the Lord Himself, the one whom "even the wind and waves obey."

"In this world I cannot see the most high Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood," St. Francis of Assisi wrote in his final testament, the last instruction to his religious brothers. "Above everything else, I want this Most Holy Sacrament to be honored and venerated and reserved in places which are richly ornamented."

Following the example of his namesake St. Francis, our Holy Father Pope Francis has asked the faithful to join him in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on June 2, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. On that day, the Church throughout the world will pray in solidarity for the renewal and growth of faith in Jesus Christ, as part of this special Year of Faith.

At 1 p.m. this Sunday, I will be leading a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Lincoln, from St. Francis Chapel to Blessed Sacrament parish. We will join our prayers with those of Pope Francis and St. Francis, as we testify publicly to the power and glory of God in the Blessed Sacrament.

Faith is our greatest treasure, the only true source of consolation in the wake of disasters like last week’s tornado. Faith will not always stop the storm – but it always gives us access, in the midst of suffering, to a love that is more powerful than any source of pain.

This love can be seen, with the eyes of faith, in the Blessed Sacrament.

Please join me, this Sunday afternoon, in bearing witness to the supremely powerful love of our Eucharistic Lord.

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