“It’s cancer.” His voice trembling, my husband brought me the news of my new reality. Breast cancer, I have breast cancer. The thought just kept replaying in a terribly painful loop.
This is so hard to write about. I don’t want any reminders of cancer or the painful treatment required to save my life. I don’t want the physical reminders still left on my body in the form of scars and fatigue and lymphedema. I don’t want to be reminded of what I lost and what I cannot now recover.
My body, both the source of life for so many children is also my betrayer. Having allowed this cancer to grow and spread, my body betrayed me. How can I see it any other way? Only, I need to see it differently. I must in order to heal.
How can the scene of such pain and suffering, my body, become in my eyes something worthy and good again? How can any such contradictions ever be reconciled?
For a time, I was resigned to ignore the problem. I hoped that with enough distance from the trauma of treatment that these feelings would go away. However, two years later, I realized that scars don’t fade that much, especially to the eyes of the afflicted.
In fact, the more I tried to distance my thoughts from cancer’s assault on my body, the more distance I felt from God. I hated the physical part of His creation in me. I became disembodied in my relationship with God. Somehow in wanting to avoid the trigger for my pain (my body), I blinded myself to my faith’s mystical and unique ability to reconcile the contradiction of love and suffering.
Ours is a bodily faith, a Eucharistic faith, a faith that exalts the Cross of Christ. The Cross is the greatest of all contradictions; an instrument of both death and salvation. The source and summit of our faith is the sacramental reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. His Body and Blood upon the Cross. His wounded and scarred body. His sacred Blood that flowed for my sins. Ours is a mystical and yet also a bodily, tactile faith.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 195) wrote, “He [Jesus] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be His own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, He has established as his own Body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.” According to this early Church father, it is the Eucharist that causes “our blood to flow” and “gives increase to our bodies.” A mystical marriage of the supernatural and corporal indeed!
St. Irenaeus was writing before the third century to dispel the heresy of a disembodied faith – a faith divorced of the supernatural grace of the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood!
His words ring true today! Modernity promotes a spirituality devoid of the sacramental life. Modern culture is content to be “spiritual but not religious,” forgetting the heart from which the spiritual lifeblood flows – the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist!
Even within the Church Jesus established, Catholics are ignorant of Our Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist – Ignorant of Our Lord waiting for you in the sacrament of his sacrifice and love.
God who is all-powerful chose the Cross for our salvation. He could have chosen another form, right? He can do anything. Instead, Christ’s spiritual and physical obedience onto the Cross was God’s perfect means for our salvation, both a physical and spiritual surrender to God the Father.
The physical, the bodily has become a perversion in today’s culture. We separate the body from the soul in order to abuse one another. We deny the personhood/soul of the unborn to crush the life of the most helpless. This “freedom” is dehumanizing, dividing what God designed in His work of creation. We are meant to be body and soul and both are “very good” in his eyes. We are meant to be fully alive in Christ in body and soul. This life flows from the Eucharist.
My Lord Jesus gazes back at me from the Cross, as I adore Him in the monstrance. His spiritual and physical presence radiate Love. Knowing that He would ascend to the Father, my beloved left Himself as the Eucharist here on Earth. He left this gift of Himself for me to adore and receive into my body as food for my spiritual and physical life. In fact, because Christ holds my body in such high esteem, making it the means through which I am able to receive Him in the Eucharist, I am no longer disembodied. I have reconciled the contradiction of cancer in this body. I accept that which God loves and uses to come near to me – the Eucharist in me.
By the Cross of Christ, I have begun to reconcile physical suffering with love even as I struggle physically each day. Humanity cannot artificially divide body and soul or sacrifice and love. This is the lie of modernity and it separates us from God. God wants us body and soul just as he offers us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist.
The greatest mystery of our faith is that to experience His amazing nearness in the Eucharist is to truly possess Love Itself. The Gospel of John is clear; “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56)
He is waiting for you in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.