June 14, 2020
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
Moses addresses the people of Israel as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. For forty years they have wandered through the desert, being shaped and formed into the People of God by the many tests and trials they have endured. The first word out of Moses’ mouth is “remember.” Remember how when you were hungry God provided food that you had never eaten before—manna. Remember how when you were thirsty God provided water from an unexpected source, from the rock.
Moses could have just as easily have said, “Remember how you complained that there was no food to be found in the desert nor water to drink and how you wanted to return to being slaves in Egypt in order to eat from the fleshpots there.” Remember how you wanted to exchange the “uncomfortable” freedom of being dependent on the hand of God to feed you for the “comfort” of slavery.
This kind of remembering is dynamic. It calls forth a response from those who remember. To remember and do nothing is to forget. Holy remembering s to act in trust and obedience: To trust that God will provide our daily bread and obey the commands of the Lord, by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
What do we remember every time we gather around the table of the Lord? After the priests says the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, the words of consecration, we sing: “Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”
What we remember every time we celebrate the Eucharist is the saving death of the Son of God, how he gives his flesh for the life of the world. He offers his body, broken by the ultimate sacrifice of love, to be our saving food. He dies that we might live. He rises from the dead that we might rise with him to new life. He sends His Spirit that He might remain with us always, feeding our hunger for God, deepening our thirst for God.
To “do this in memory of him”, to celebrate worthily this most holy Sacrament, means that we more fully entrust our lives to him, and with him, offer our lives to the Father in loving obedience to the Father’s will. So, to worthily receive this living bread come down from heaven, we are to live in Him and do everything with Him.
Which means we will be constantly challenged to grow in love, to see more clearly how we are being called to change our minds to align more with the mind of Christ, to change our hearts so they might beat more readily as one with the heart of Christ.
If we receive the Lord in the Holy Eucharist and refuse to recognize him living in others, then we have received him unworthily. If we adore Him present in the Blessed Sacrament but turn our backs on him present in the suffering ones of this world, then we have not really adored him at all. If we leave this celebration of the Eucharist unchanged, then we have forgotten who we have become by the gift of the life of the Son of God shared with us.
The Son of God gives himself to us in the Eucharist as a source of peace but also “holy unrest,” because we are being challenged by him to grow in love. This Holy Sacrament is a source of joy as we taste heaven come to earth, but also stirs up sorrow in our hearts as we realize we still have a ways to go on our journey home. We are fed by the Lord of Life, yet we also hunger to receive Him more fully.
So, as a Eucharistic people, we will suffer from “discomfort,” because we are a pilgrim people traveling through the desert of this life constantly learning and being taught by God.
Sadly, too many settle for far less than the abundant life Jesus longs to share. He is the Living Bread of the Truth of God’s love for us, yet too many try to sustain their lives on lies.
One such lie in America is: “You have to be comfortable in order to be happy.” Anything that makes us uncomfortable we try to avoid at all costs. So, there is a pain pill for every ailment. Now, for those with chronic pain, medicine is necessary, but the message from our “comfort culture” is that any kind of discomfort has to be erased immediately. However, we who worship the Crucified One, who receive his body broken for us and his blood poured out for us, know the real loving is often uncomfortable.
To wear a mask for the well being of others is a source of discomfort but an act of love.
Or as a black priest friend of mine says, “White people do not want to look at the structures of racism in our society because it makes them uncomfortable. But why is that discomfort a bad thing?”
A living and true relationship with Jesus takes us beyond a “me and Jesus” spiritual world to a concrete relationship with Him in his suffering body all around us. Thus, the Eucharist is more verb than noun, more an action than an object: the action of receiving Christ and then giving our lives away in love with Jesus Christ to Him living in others.
The Eucharist is not something we receive but someone we receive. At every celebration of the Eucharist we become what we receive—the Body of Christ. At the Eucharist, we do not come to take something but to become Someone— to become other Christ’s in this world by allowing his life to take root and grow in us.
The Eucharist is not a thing but a person, the very person of the Crucified One now Risen, who shares his life with us, so that we might share his life and love with others.