"The Eucharist has given me hope"
I can't say exactly when I began to understand that Jesus is waiting for me in the Eucharist. I have a memory of going with my mother, my oldest sister, and my brother to a church to observe the First Friday tradition of Confession and Mass. The church was not our regular parish, and held daily Mass in a small and ordinary room with green carpet. It was not a place you would expect to encounter the divine, and yet I found that, as a child, I was drawn into this moment to really experience the Mass. I would feel joy that I could go with my family and have this intimate experience.
It was in this same room that I had my first experience of Eucharistic adoration as a kid. I did not know much about the theology of the Eucharist, but I knew here was something holy. As I grew into my teenage years, and began struggling with various sins that culminated in feelings of depression and low self-esteem, I again encountered Jesus in the Eucharist when I attended a three-day conference for high school youth. In the small crowd of teenagers, I came face-to-face with Jesus in the Eucharist as the priest processed with the monstrance. He stopped right in front of where I was, and I felt an overpowering sense that Jesus was right there with me.
This feeling later encouraged me to attend daily Mass when I began college, and it was through Mass that I began to learn about prayer and simply being present with God. The sin and depression and self-esteem issues that I grappled with became more clear to me, and I began to attend a morning Holy Hour to pray in front of the Eucharist. I still struggled with my own self-worth, but I began to feel hope and joy. I can't say how many times I fell asleep during this hour of prayer, but I imagined that Jesus was simply putting me under like a doctor to do surgery on my soul.
Today, I can say that it is Jesus' willingness to be with me in the Eucharist that has offered me true transformation. The Eucharist has given me hope and has sustained me when I have encountered trials and hardships. On days when I feel overwhelmed by work, I find myself resting before the tabernacle in the reservation chapel and imagining that Jesus is holding me in his arms. I also recognize that by receiving Jesus, he is changing me always, opening my heart to receive other people. Jesus' presence in the Eucharist is softening my heart, and that is such a profound and beautiful gift.