Sunday, June 18, 2017

Growing up I didn’t know about the Eucharist. What I did know is that Jesus had promised that greater miracles were coming and that if we asked we would receive it. (click the link to read more)

June 18, 2017
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Lectionary: 167
DT 8:2-3, 14B-16A
PS 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
1 COR 10:16-17
JN 6:51-58

Growing up I didn’t know about the Eucharist.  What I did know is that Jesus had promised that greater miracles were coming and that if we asked we would receive it.   I started out in the Baptist church, as many know.   I remember the particular brand of Baptist that my grandfather was being very strict and rigid morally.  As I walked the journey toward the Church I wandered through various other religions.   The one I settled into for many years was in a very Pentecostal/Holiness style of worship.   The one thing that can be said of those men and women is that they truly believed in Jesus promises.   We didn’t speak about communion much.   I don’t remember ever saying the Lord’s prayer.   What I do remember is preachers so passionate about what they were saying that if you sat in the front row you might have to wipe some spittle off your face.

I also remember one woman in particular who had a bad knee.   She had a really structured brace placed from her ankle to her thigh.    During a particularly intense session of a revival, she stood up and declared herself healed.  She ripped off that brace and began to stomp her foot, dance, and shout about God’s glory.   It was a moving thing to witness.  Later in the week, she would go on to have surgery for the damage that had been done in that moment.   One could say she was silly, or stupid for doing it.   I say she had faith.  Had a miracle occurred?  Maybe.  How do I know that at that moment her knee wasn’t healed?   Or that God had used that moment to draw someone closer to Him?  Maybe even to draw me in?   It definitely increased my faith for years to come.

That wasn’t the only thing I witnessed in those years of wondering.   I attended communities that worshiped with music alone, others that had no structure but just let the Spirit move them, and even some with some sort of liturgy.   I went to Churches where men drank poison and lifted up vipers.  Where women fell out in the aisle unconscious and babbling.   Prayer services that lasted for days.   Speaking in tongues was prized and touted as a true sign of a believer.  All of these signs were things I truly believed in.   Why?  Because Jesus said it.   If Jesus said it?  It must be true.

Over the years that hasn’t changed about me.  I still believe in miracles.  I am certain that happen every day in ways that many of us just miss or don’t even have the ability to understand.  I don’t conceive of a God who is so transcendent that He has in some way forgotten us and left us on our own.  I believe in a personal God who wants us to be in a personal, albeit communal, relationship with Him and His Body.   I believe in a God so humble and generous that the Son emptied Himself of all that and became a man that I too might be able to meet God and understand Him.

The past few weeks have really pointed to this day.   The Ascension, Pentecost, the Holy Trinity, and now Corpus Christi.   Each of these points to a reality that is beyond what we understood on our own, but something that was revealed to us in the person of Christ.   That is, that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God.   He is a part of the divine Godhead.   All of his life, death, and especially resurrection point to that simple, yet complex truth.   Jesus is God.  Let that settle in for a moment.   2000 years after this event that changed the history of humanity we often gloss over that.   All of the power in the universe, the very essence of what it means to exist, became a man that we could live for all of eternity.

That which was most powerful became defenseless in the body of a child.   He who had created humanity now depended on a family to take care of every need.  Who once molded and hung the stars now flailed with limbs out of control in search of comfort from the world He had to learn to understand.   In doing so He went from being the penultimate of all of the universe to one of the weakest and most vulnerable of His creations.  Laying in a manger, the feed trough of the brutish animals, was the bread that sustains all of creation and gives life to all things.

Yet somehow people refuse to believe that the same God who did all of these things to prove His love, was somehow limited in His ability to turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  How could I believe that men in a small rural church in Virginia could lay hands on one another and receive healing, but that somehow the Apostolic line had lost its authority and power?  A huge percentage of the Christian world reject this miracle or explain it away as a symbol, superstition or something that the first Church never intended.  Yet, Paul in his writings is clear.   “Isn’t this bread we partake the body of Christ?  Isn’t this wine His blood?”  The answer to both is yes.   That’s why Paul also warns in another place that anyone who receives this gift unworthily is guilty of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  

Genesis begins with the statement that God spoke and the universe came into existence.   “Let there be light.”   We do not doubt the power of this statement.   We also watch as God changes people and their names.   As He commands the sea to part, the earth quakes and hills jump like yearling sheep.   All of this we believe because He is God.   When He speaks it is truth which is the very basis of our relationship with Him.   He formed a covenant with us based on His word, an unbreakable bond that created reality as He spoke it.  How then do we doubt that when Jesus, fully God, said: “This is my body” that somehow His word returns void?  

That is why I am Catholic.   All of the other things the Church has to offer are found elsewhere.   I could go to a concert any day of the week and get my fill of good and pleasing music.  I could read the Bible on my own or tune into preachers on the Television or Radio who are often more animated and enjoyable to hear than some of the homilies that challenge me or cause me to squirm in discomfort.  A hundred different fraternities, clubs, sports teams, and organizations are vying for my attention and time.   No one else can offer the Eucharist.   Some churches even offer some of the Sacraments, Baptism and Marriage being two of the more common ones.  Some Churches even offer Confession though they don’t speak of it much.  The Eucharist?  That’s Catholic.   Only the Catholic Church believes in transubstantiation, that the substance of the bread and wine is truly transformed literally into the Body and Blood of Christ though the accidents remain the same.

Why does it matter?  Because of the very discourse that is our Gospel reading for today.  Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you have no life in you.   When some of His followers challenged this and said this is a hard saying, surely you don’t mean literally?   Jesus said no, I mean it.   So much so that the verb He used to say “eat” was the one we would use to describe a starving dog ripping into a corpse.   Many walked away.   Even today people are walking away from this challenge.  Less than 40% of Catholics today believe the teaching of the Church and that Jesus is truly present.  Do you?

The Church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and with good reason!   If it is truly Jesus present in a substantial and powerful way, then where else would you want to be?   If the Eucharist is truly God, choosing an even more defenseless form, in order to come closer to you and unite with you that you might have life?  Then who wouldn’t be running to Mass?  That’s what our “Sunday Obligation” is about… if Jesus is there present fully, asking to become one with you, to unite with you in a way that brings you joy and eternal life?   Why would you want to be anywhere else?  Definitely something to be meditating upon this Corpus Christi.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14