A Rabbi’s Embrace

Jun 13, 2021

Today’s post is another powerful reflection from Fr. Michael Schleupner. We’re so grateful that he regularly shares these inspiring thoughts with our Blog! Let’s take a few quiet moments to read about a deeper meaning of the Eucharist.

A Rabbi’s Embraceembrace

There is a story about a six-year-old Jewish boy named Mortakai. Mortakai was refusing to go to school. Each day, his mother would take him to school, but as soon as she left, he would run back home. This scenario kept happening day after day. Finally, in desperation, the parents contacted their rabbi.

The rabbi said, “If the boy won’t listen to words or to reason, bring him to me.” And so, the parents took young Mortakai to the rabbi. They entered the rabbi’s study and, without saying a word, he simply picked up the boy and held him to his heart for a long time. And then, again without saying a word, the rabbi set the boy down. Amazingly, what words did not accomplish, a silent embrace did accomplish. Mortakai began going to school willingly and went on to become a famous scholar and rabbi.

God’s Embrace

One of our current Catholic theologians, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, says that the story of Mortakai expresses something very core about the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, God physically embraces us and holds us close to his divine heart. No question, words are important, but at times they do not go deep enough, and they fail us.

For example, the older I get, the more I realize that it is important that I am just there with an embrace or a handshake for a person who is grieving the death of a loved one. My presence is a spiritual embrace that communicates more than my words.

Now we all know that Jesus makes powerful use of words. This is why the Scripture is important at Mass and why we listen especially to Jesus’ words in the gospel. But even Jesus’ words have limits, and so he resorts to another language – the language of ritual and action. This is what the gift of his Body and Blood in the forms of bread and wine is all about.

The Eucharist is Jesus doing what that rabbi did for young Mortakai. It is Jesus’ physical embrace, holding us close to his heart.

A Parent’s Embrace

The author Ronald Rolheiser offers another example that he learned from parents. He says that sometimes, often late in the afternoon, a little child can get very tired. Maybe the child has been to pre-school and did not get much of a nap. At times like these, a child can get very cranky. He doesn’t know what he wants or what to do with himself.

She may torment the dog and begin to whine. At the same time, the parents are also tired and may begin to reprimand the child. But the child just whines all the more, and now the parents know exactly what to do. The mother or father scoops up the child and without speaking, just holds the child close to their heart.

The Eucharist’s Embrace

Again, Rolheiser says that this is a good image of the Eucharist. Sometimes we come to Mass, to the Eucharist, feeling tired, strung out, lonely, preoccupied, or worried. There are times when we have no words to say and cannot really hear any words.

And then, in that moment, God touches us and picks us up. In that moment, only physical touch and embrace will work. This is why God, in Jesus, gives us the Eucharist. This is God’s divine, physical embrace.

So, no wonder that the Eucharist is so powerful. Here we find inner comfort for our anxiety and upset. Here we find strength when we feel tired and are wondering if we can keep going on. That is what the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, is for us: the divine embrace that communicates without any words at all.

~Fr. Michael Schleupner

This link connects to Father Mike’s current and past Inbox Inspirations: www.fathermikeinboxblog.blogspot.com.