Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Experiencing God today

By FATHER HENRY ATEM, Commentary | Published March 7, 2024

In June, 1979, when Pope John Paul II made his first official trip to his native Poland as supreme pontiff, he was greeted with much euphoria and joy. This trip came after the Vatican had made several attempts to plan a visit for the newly elected pontiff only to be met with many obstacles and challenges from the reigning communist regime.  

Father Henry Atem

The trip, which lasted nine days, was filled with many memorable moments. As the Pope arrived at Warsaw, he celebrated the opening Mass at Victory Square on June 2, 1979. In the middle of the Pope’s homily, the more than 300,000 poles present started chanting: “We want God; we want God!” These words were not simply the cry of a people oppressed by a dictatorial regime; rather, it is the song that rings deep and true in every human heart.  

We want God. We truly want God; each one of us. The need for God is the most profound human need. 

The many social, moral and psychological challenges we have in the world today signal an intense level of emptiness and despair in the human spirit. It has become more apparent to us that all the technological advancements and material progress we have secured for ourselves, as necessary as they may seem, will never fully satisfy man’s hunger for love and meaning. When we carefully observe the trends in our society, whether spiritual, moral or psychological; whether from our youths or the adults, they all tell the same story. The poverty that has stricken the human soul, especially in more recent years, continues to call out clearly and loudly: We want God, we want God.  

The church has always believed and taught that, from the day of the Last Supper when Jesus established the Holy Eucharist as the sacramental presence of his body, till today, man’s basic need for God is fulfilled most practically in an encounter with Jesus in Holy Communion, either through reception or adoration. However, given the current state of the world, the gift of God’s presence in Holy Communion must be treasured and appreciated in its proper context. From the moment we were created, God endowed each human being with an intrinsic desire and a natural capacity for him. We all have a deep and profound desire to be in relationship with God. However, this inherent desire and ability have been gravely affected by sin. Our sinful inclination has made it harder and more challenging to develop and sustain a meaningful relationship with God.  

Nonetheless, God, in his continuous providence, never abandons us. Rather, the Father responds by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to reveal to humanity the way out of sin and its consequences, and this requires restoring our ability to encounter God and our desire to abide eternally in his presence. Therefore, in order to appreciate the gift of the Holy Eucharist, especially during this time of Eucharistic Revival, it must be seen as that mystery that unites our intrinsic desire for God and God’s providential response to our deepest and most significant longing.  

As Catholics, we believe that eucharistic devotion is the answer to this cry; “we want God!” Therefore, during these days of eucharistic revival, may we rediscover the mystery of God’s ever abiding presence in our midst and in eucharistic amazement, may we make the words of the great St. Aphonsus Ligouri our prayer:  

“O bread of heaven, beneath this veil; Thou dost my very God conceal;
My Jesus, dearest treasure, hail; I love thee and adoring kneel;
Each loving soul by thee is fed; With thine own self in form of bread.”

Father Henry Atem is pastor of St. Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville, and is a member of the archdiocesan Eucharistic Revival Task Force.