Friday, 25 th February 2022: A talk at the Divine Mercy Conference, Dublin (Ireland). See its text under the video …
Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, who are following the Divine Mercy Conference which this time, once again, is being held online due to the pandemic. We look forward that the time will come again when we can meet together at the … to praise the Lord, to announce his Word, to open our hearts completely to his Divine Mercy.
I am Fr Hayden. I come from the island of Malta and I am a Franciscan Capuchin Friar. I would like to invite you to open your hearts right from the very start for whatever the Lord will be doing during this conference. The theme that we are going to speak about is the Eucharist and in my own talk I will be sharing with you about Eucharistic Healing seen from the perspective of praise.
But before I share these reflections with you, I invite you that you open your hearts for the gift of the Holy Spirit. We will pray for his anointing, for his power and strength upon the Word that we will be hearing and upon the hearts of each and every one of us listening, so that we can open our hearts for whatever the Lord wants to do in us and through us.
I would like to invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit upon you through a prayer that I prayed for you together with a whole congregation in Malta in our Eucharistic meetings that we hold every month. So open your hearts. Ask the Lord to anoint you once again with the gift of the Holy Spirit…
Fr Hayden praying: “Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, we humbly ask you tonight, just come and fill us once again with the gift of your Holy Spirit. Come Spirit of God. Come and fill our hearts, fill our minds, fill our bodies. Come and fill us once again with your very presence. Come and heal us Spirit of God. Come and enflame us with a love and a passion for Jesus. We welcome you Holy Spirit in our midst.”
The Eucharist, dear brothers and sisters, is the prayer of the Christian, is the prayer of the Church, and if we had to go deep in the Eucharist, there are many facades so that we can’t really understand the depths of the Liturgy when we celebrate the Mass. I would like to focus on one aspect of the Eucharist, which is the aspect of thanksgiving.
I would like you to understand that the Lord in the Old Testament has invited his people to worship him but he also taught them how to worship. As a matter of fact, praise and thanksgiving in the whole Bible can be seen that it has developed in three particular moments. It was foreshadowed in the Old Testament because whatever there is in the Old Testament is the foreshadowing of something that has to do with Christ in the New Testament. So even worship, praise and adoration is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, then it took place in its real depths, how really God wanted it, in the Christ event and then from that we go to the Liturgy, it became a Sacrament how we live it in Church. So there is the foreshadowing of praise and thanksgiving, there is the Christ event of praise and thanksgiving and then there is the Liturgy in the Church of praise and thanksgiving.
In the Old Testament, when God instructed the Jews how to worship him, he gave them a particular sacrifice of praise and thankgiving, known as Todah. Todah, remember it, Todah, which means both praise and thanksgiving. Now the Jews, the way God taught them how to worship him, how to praise him, when they offered this Todah, it had two components.
One of it was a prayer of praise, in fact we have the litanies in the Liturgies which are also the Psalms that the Jews used to pray when they praised God. But together with the prayer of thanksgiving, they used to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the sacrifice of thanksgiving was made up of the lamb, the bread and the wine. So, I am explaining this very simply and beautifully so that then we can get a glimpse of the beauty of the Eucharist. So this is how the Lord, in the Old Testament, prepared the people how to worship him.
When we go to the New Testament, what has been foreshadowed in the Old, we can see it happening really in the life of Christ, especially when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. We are going to see that both components, a prayer of praise and a sacrificial offering are united in the Person of Jesus Christ. For example, in Luke, when Jesus institutes the Eucharist, this is explained in this way:
“And he took bread and when he had given thanks (the word thanks is Eucharistein In Greek, which means Thanksgiving), and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘this is my body which is given up for you, do this in remembrance of me.’”
So, here we have, brothers and sisters, what God foreshadowed in the Old Testament happening in the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus gives thanks and the sacrifice is himself. The bread, the wine and the lamb of the Old Testament, the three components of the sacrifice in the Todah, the lamb, the bread and wine are Jesus Christ himself at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist. He, the sacrificial lamb, the bread and the wine are transubstantiated, we say as Catholics, in his body and blood.
So, brothers and sisters, the way God invites us how to praise him, how to thank him, is by offering Jesus Christ himself to the Father, by entering into the praise of Jesus Christ himself to the Father. And this is what happens everytime we celebrate the Christian Todah. The Christian Todah is nothing else but the Mass. We can call it the Christian Todah. And to cherish the beauty of this, as the Catholic Church explains it in its own Cathecism, I would like to read some paragraphs from the Cathecism of the Catholic Church — just for you to get a glimpse that this thanksgiving is at the heart of our Eucharistic celebration. The Cathecism of the Catholic Church:
“The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to the Father. By his sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his body which is the Church.”
So here the Cathecism tells us that Jesus associates us into his own sacrifice of praise. In another paragraph the Cathecism says:
“The sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ. He unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, to his intersession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him to be accepted in him.”
You know, this is really the heart of the second part of the Mass. I would like to go through the second part of the Mass, of the sacred Liturgy, to show you that the sacrifice of praise, this Christian Todah, as it was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, is re-lived by us everytime we celebrate the Eucharist.
So, we said that the first part of this sacrifice of praise was a thankgiving prayer. Now the Eucharistic prayer which is the second part of the Mass, as I am insisting, I would like you to understand its dynamism. The priest starts by saying “the Lord be with you”, we say “and with your spirit”. Then he is inviting us “lift up your hearts to the Lord”, “we lift them up to the Lord”. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” and we say “it is right and just”. And the priest continue to say “it is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks Holy Father, almighty and eternal God through Jesus Chist”.
That is how the Eucharistic prayer starts, and how does it end? It ends like this: “Through him, with him and in him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours almighty Father”, and we all say “Amen.”
So, this is the Eucharistic prayer which is completely embedded in a prayer of praise. But together with this prayer of praise, we also have the sacrificial offering. During the moment of consecration, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the priest’s words, the bread and wine become the body, the blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, and those are offered to the Father. So here we have the whole Christian Todah, the prayer of praise, together with the sacrifice of praise.
Now brothers and sisters, this is the beauty of the Mass, because we enter into the very thankgiving that Jesus gave to the Father. It is not another one, it’s the very same one. Now please understand that this attitude how we celebrate the Mass, which is an attitude of thankgiving, should characterize our Christian life, especially our Christian prayer. Christian prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer of praising God. We are called to pray Eucharistically, not only during Mass, during the Liturgy, but also outside of Mass, ourside of the Liturgy; in Eucharistic adoration, in our personal prayer time, in our personal devotions. The prayer of praise and thanksgiving should characterize the life of us Catholics. And I would like you to take this very seriously, because if we don’t enter into this attitude of praying in the sense of thanksgiving and praising God, then we are not becoming a Eucharist.
Now the Eucharist has very facades: it is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, it is giving ourselves completely to others in complete agape love. These are the different facades, but one of the major facades of the Eucharist to enter into its spirituality, is the prayer of praise and thanksgiving. Saint Paul in his letter to the Colossians says:
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2)
So Paul is insisting that what should characterize our prayer-life is the prayer of thanksgiving.
Now what happens when we praise God, both during Mass and outside of Mass? Something very beautiful happens. Listen to what the Church itself praise in its comment preface number 4:
“For, although you have no need for our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit for us salvation, through Christ our Lord.”
In simple terms, what does the Church says? The Church says that as we praise the Lord (liturgically speaking, we call this the anabatic movement, meaning that we offer our praise up to God in the Liturgy), we lift up our hearts and our praises to God. In return to this this anabatic movement, there is a katabatic movement, which means that God sends down his blessings upon us. Katabatic means decending down, anabatic raising up. As our praise raises up to God, his blessings fall upon us.
This is amazing, dear brothers and sisters, and that’s why I am emphasizing that this attitude, this Eucharistic attitude is a source of healing in our life because any healing grace that we need to receive, we can receive healing through various ways. Jesus has various channels of healing graces, but one of the most beautiful channels of healing graces is praising God even in our difficult situations as we are going to see.
In fact, we find this also in the life of Christ, that before a miracle takes place, he praises God, he praises the Father. For example, before the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, what does Mark say:
“And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.” (Mark 6: 41)
That is a prayer of thanksgiving.
Before the resurrection of Lazarus, John 11:
“Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: ‘Father I thank you that you have heard me.’” (John 11: 41b)
You know, this episode reminds me so much of the Blessed Solanus Casey, a Capuchin saint, brothers and sisters, who used to tell the people “Thank God ahead of time” as Jesus does now. He praises the Father ahead of the miracle, ahead of the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus enters into a Eucharistic attitude, a prayer of thanks, to the Father before the miracle happens. Why? Because as we praise God then he blesses us.
Jesus, since this is a Conference also dealing with Divine Mercy inspired by Saint Faustina, I thought of seeing a little bit also this kind of spirituality in the life of Saint Faustina. That is amazing what Jesus tells Faustina. Remember it is approved by the Church, so we are on safe grounds quoting on private revelastions. Jesus once told Faustina:
“Know my child that for your sake I write blessings to this whole vicinity but you ought to thank me on their behalf as they do not thank me for the kindness I extend to them. For the sake of your gratitude, (listen once again: For the sake of your gratitude) I will continue to bless them.”
Isn’t that amazing? For the sake of somebody praising God, being grateful to God, he continues to bless the whole vicinity of Saint Faustina.
In another time, Jesus told Faustina:
“Be grateful for the smallest of my graces because your gratitude compels me to grant you new graces.”
This is mind-blogging! Your gratitude compels me to grant you new graces. Jesus is saying here that our gratitude compels him, as if it takes away his freedom. Once we praise him, his blessings come upon us. And that is why, Mass is the greatest healing service we can have because as we enter into the very praise of Christ to the Father, all the graces of salvation, all the healings, miracles, feedom, whatever the Lord wants to do in us, we receive through the power of the Eucharist. Jesus once again told Faustina:
“Your thanksgiving opens up new treasures of graces.”
Your thanksgiving opens up new treasures of graces. Once we understand the power of the Mass in this way, its healing power, but seen from the light of praise in God and the blessings that come to us through praising God, once we understand this… I would like to emphasize not to look at Mass as something magical, as something that we use it so that we receive graces outside of a deep relationship with Christ in our lives.
We should really desire to praise God, however to receive graces should not be our motivation: we cannot instrumentalise praise. We know that the Lord works that way but we should never instrumentalise the Eucharist so that we receive healings and miracles. We should praise God simply to acknowledge him and then, yes, we open to whatever graces and blessings he wants to give us.
Now, what are the major healings we receive through this kind of Eucharistic praise and thanksgiving, through this Eucharistic prayer, through this Eucharistic attitude in our life?
Healing from our own insufficiency
First, we receive the grace of healing from our own insufficiency. Why? The Eucharistic prayer, as I have quoted already says:
“Our thanksgiving is itself your gift.”
We do not know how to praise God and God himself gives us a way how to praise him. We are insufficient. I am not speaking about mature Christian life here dear brothers and sisters. You know Saint Paul once said that:
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” (Romans 8:26)
Or, we can say, we don’t know how to praise God, but the Spirit himself comes to praise God within us. And how he does that? Through the Eucharist, where the Holy Spirit joins us to the very praise of Christ himself. In fact, the Catechism says:
“The Holy Spirit who thus awaken the memory of the Church, then inspires thanksgiving and praise.”
He inspires thanksgiving and praise in our prayer by joining us through Christ’s thanksgiving and praise, the Christian Todah as I already explained, during Mass, during the Eucharist. How much we miss when we don’t go to Mass, brothers and sisters!
Healing from our sinful condition
Another healing that we receive is the healing from our sinful condition. In what sense? I would like you to understand what Saint Paul wrote in the letter to the Romans. He told them:
“For although they knew God they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him.” (Romans 1:21)
According to Paul, sin in our lives is ingratitude. Sin is kowning that God exists but you do not worship him, you do not praise him, you do not thank him for what he is doing. In fact, Saint Faustinsa had this, I do not say intuition but it is deeper, it is divine knowledge, the Holy Spirit instructing her, a very simple nun but had great theology. Faustina says:
“Sin is an abyss of wickedness and ingratitude.”
Sin is an abyss of wickedness and ingratitude. Jesus himself told Faustina:
“Oh how indifferent are souls to so much goodness, to so many proofs of love. My heart drinks only of the ingratitude and forgetfulness of souls living in the world.” (Diary 367)
In another time he told her:
“In return for my blessings, I get ingratitude. In return to my love, I get forgetfulness and indifference.” (Diary 1537)
This is the state of sin, where we know that God exists but we are not grateful to him. And brothers and sisters actually we could go Mass and if we are not grateful we could have this sin hidden in our hearts. You know, in the Book of Isaiah, in Chapter 61 where we have the Messiah saying that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news etc… you know it. Some verses down, he says that the servant of God anointed by the Spirit will give to the people of God the garment of praise. You know, praising God is one of the signs that show you that you are saved, is one of the signs that shows us that we are living the redemption that Christ gave us.
Healing from the sense of independence
Another aspect, another healing that we receive when we praise God is the healing from the sense of independence that we have from God. Sometimes it is as if we live our lives independently from God. When we praise him we realise that everything comes from him and that we depend on him. Paul once told the Christian community in Corinthian:
“What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
People who do not praise God take everything for granted; but those who praise him, know that whatever they have, they have received from God himself.
Healing from our judgement
Another aspect that is healed in our hearts when we praise God, is the healing from our judgement of God. You know Saint Paul invites us to:
“Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
Even during the most bad circumstances that we come through. Because when you praise God in your toughest times, it is a sign that you believe that whatever happens in your life is God’s providence, that you do not live life by chance. God is good no matter what is happing to you and God is powerful even in your sickness, in your pain and in your suffering. God can draw good out of evil and this is the greatest manifestation of his power. The greatest miracle that can happen is not the elimination of evil but drawing good out of evil as it happened on the cross.
So when we praise God in the most difficult situations in our lives, our hearts are healed from the subtle temptation, that the devil brings to our hearts, that God does not love us, that the Father does not love us, that Jesus is not with us, that the Holy Spirit has abandoned us. When we choose to pray, to praise the Lord even in our difficult situations, in our pain, in our suffering, in our family situations, in our difficult situations of the Church, in the pandemic, whatever we go through in a secular society, when we don’t grumble but we praise the Lord — it means that our hearts are acknowledging his sovereignty. He is present and he is leading everything. Everything is in his hands. We are not called to understand how, but we are called to trust him and we trust him by praising him.
Healing from our focus
Another kind of healing that we receive when we praise God is that our focus is healed because when we grumble and we do not praise God what happens? We focus on sickness. We focus on the devil. We focus on the bad things happing around us. When we choose to praise God, we get our focus off us, off our pain, off our situations, off our difficulties, and we focus on the Lord, we focus on Jesus himself. You know and once we focus on him, our hearts are open to his presence, to his healing power, to his healing grace.
Now, this kind of praise and thanksgiving is not a feeling. We don’t praise God because we feel. We have to praise him. Well, when there is that feeling, good luck to us, but in spiritual life, life in the Spirit is based on a decision not a feeling. This kind of praise is when you choose to praise the Lord even in moments when you don’t feel like doing it.
Brothers and sisters, there is tremendous healing that comes through praising God in our lives and this is the heart of the Eucharist. When we pray the Mass, when we praise God outside of the Mass, in Eucharistic adoration, by praying the Psalms, in other moments of praise — even the rosary could be a prayer of praise in our lives. As we praise him, his blessings decend upon us, especially the blessings of salvation and the blessings of healing, spiritual healing.
I emphasized a lot the healing of the heart in our relationship with God; but even the healing in our physical bodies, the healing in our lives, the healing in the lives of others could happen.
You know, God’s greatest miracles are not sometimes an answer to our intercessory prayer, but an answer to our prayers of praise and thanksgiving.
I would like you to spend the rest of this conference by actually putting into practise what I have been sharing with you. I invite you to enter into a moment of adoration, into a moment of praising God, into a moment of worshipping him.
But as you’re going to join me in this moment of prayer, I insist that the position from where you adore the Lord, from where you praise him and thank him now, is the position of your pain, the postion of your suffering. Praise him from your darkest moments because there you would experience his life coming in you now, his healing grace coming in you now, his healing power coming in you now. As you fix your eyes on him in gratitude and you turn your eyes from everything evil, from the pain and the suffering you would be going through, just get your heart prepared and come into this deep moment of prayer, of Eucharistic adoration, praise and worship.
Fr Hayden praying: “O Jesus, we humbly ask you to draw our hearts to you. Give us a deep desire for you. Come close to us, let us be close to you. Touch our hearts, touch our desires.”
Fr Hayden praying: “Let us call out the name of Jesus and trust him.”
Fr Hayden praying: “Together from our hearts let’s proclaim the name of Jesus. Let’s cry out to him, let’s desire him. Just desire him to be your love, to be your joy, to be your healing tonight. Desire him more than your drugs, desire him more than your success, desire him more than any earthly glory. Desire him. Jesus, Jesus from our hearts together…”
Fr Hayden praying: “Lord Jesus we ask you to heal our sicknesses in mind, body in soul and in spirit. We truly believe Jesus you are present in the Eucharist, body, blood, soul and divinity. We ask you and we beg you Lord that in your mercy you will touch our wounded hearts, our wounded bodies, our sick souls. Come and heal us Lord as we call upon your name. Come and heal cancer Lord Jesus, come and heal arthrites, come and heal skin conditions Lord, back pains Lord Jesus, eye conditions Lord, just open deaf ears, give your sight to the blind, give clearity to the mind, give a new breath to the lungs…”