Chapter 4 – The Gateway to the Kingdom

Seek First

Two weeks after my return from the Poconos and my silent retreat, my wife announced that she would take her annual summer trip to see her relatives. Our son would go with her since her family rarely had the opportunity to see their young relative. I now faced the prospect of spending two weeks alone with no job and really nothing to do but look for work and, I might add, pray.

Only one or two nights into my solitary stay after they departed, I found myself sitting in my reading chair with our dog on my lap (my only companion during this lonely, secluded interlude on my spiritual journey), when I had the most compelling feeling come over me, a feeling that animated and motivated my spirit. I recall thinking, “I should go and visit the Blessed Sacrament,” the real and substantial Body and Blood of Jesus Christ on earth, the great gift from Christ through his Church that keeps him materially present to all of us down through the ages.

It was eleven o’clock at night, the time when I would normally trudge upstairs to get some sleep. However, that would not be the case for me for several more hours that evening. I immediately stood up (leaving my poor four-legged companion thrashing his legs in the air in an attempt to acquire some reasonable level of stability before hitting the floor!), retrieved my car keys, and drove to the local Franciscan adoration chapel about twenty minutes from our home. There, I began what ultimately would be the single most important activity of my newly rejuvenated journey in Catholicism; I began regular adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit, through the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, animated and led me that night to the foundation of all of our hope, the foundation of our life, that being the worship of Jesus Christ in his Eucharistic presence as handed to us through the holy sacrifice of the Mass.  I did not realize at the time that I received then my first instruction for making a successful journey to that Kingdom of God which I was to seek. Worshiping the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist continues to be the foundation for every step I take toward spiritual Christendom. It is in the Eucharist that we come face to face with the real, substantial presence of Jesus whereby we allow him to teach us, to mold us according to his will, and ultimately, we hope, to unite ourselves with him.

Our Lady of the Sign

I now add a note about why it is that while others see evil in the Church such that they refuse to come inside her gates, I refuse to leave despite this evil. I refer to this evil using the more helpful terminology of “sin.” Yes, sin exists in the Church. The Church is full of sinners and never claimed not to be so in its two-thousand-year history. Yet, using the sins of the Church as an excuse, those outside refuse to venture inside to see what her land holds beyond the borders. As stated in my introduction, this is one of the key reasons I am writing this book, to help the world recognize the beauty of her interior. There is a reason that I refuse to leave despite the Church’s sins, and I will use this current point on my journey to explain it.

The reason is that the Church is unspeakably holy! You might ask how anyone could make such a statement in the face of evidence so obviously to the contrary. The Church is unspeakably holy, yet full of sinners?

The Church is holy first because Christ himself founded her, therefore making her, as a historical point in fact, a divinely founded institution. She also is holy because Jesus remains in her, guides her through the Holy Spirit, and unites himself with her as his own body and his mystical bride. Just as God created Eve as “flesh of Adam’s flesh,” Jesus founded the Church through the blood and water flowing from his crucified side on Calvary and then animated it by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Most significantly of all, the Church’s holiness derives from the real and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In summary, the Church is holy because of him who created her and promised never to abandon her, Jesus Christ.

Then there are the sinners, people like you and me, who are called to make up the Church and to be the visible presence of Christ through the active presence of the Church on earth. We are to be the hands and feet, the tongue and spirit of Christ for the world. The Church is the visible sacrament of Christ on earth through us and through our participation in the life of Christ. We often are unfaithful in fulfilling that mission. Amidst the magnificent saints such St. Francis of Assisi, St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Joan of Arc, and so on, we have members of the body of Christ like you and me. Saints and sinners are we, with members like me often destroying her beauty in the world. However, the Church, as she is in Jesus Christ, is truly holy. No sinner, no matter how vile, can take even one iota of holiness away from the Blessed Sacrament, objectively speaking. This is Catholicism! This is the world view that brings everything into focus and establishes everything in its proper order.

In summary, the very first activity Our Lady demanded of me on my revitalized spiritual path was to worship the Lord in the Eucharist. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this step on the March of Hope. For those who doubt the benefit of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or who think that Mary will detract us from Jesus who is our true savior, ponder on her instructions for a moment. True devotion to Mary always leads us directly and swiftly to Jesus. Consecrate yourself to Mary, and you will find Jesus. When you find Jesus, you will find the glorious kingdom of which I speak. The Eucharist is the gateway to that kingdom.