Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Where is the Body of Christ?

This weekend we will be celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. Where is the Body of Christ?
The disciples on that first Easter morning were frantically searching for the body of Christ. They were dazed and confused. But Jesus didn’t want them, or us, going off on some wild goose chase. Before his death he told us very clearly where we could find his body, his physical presence. And in his goodness, he also gave us a wonderful gift, the gift of his sacramental presence.

Jesus, by his own words, his own intentions, remains very present in our world:  both physically present where we can talk with him, walk with him and embrace him; and sacramentally present where he continues to nourish our souls.

Let’s consider that sacramental presence first. Jesus left us a wonderful gift, in the Eucharist. Those men and women who celebrated that Passover meal, that Last Supper with Jesus, had no idea at the time what he was doing for them, and for us. Here we are 2000 years later in New Jersey and we are still sharing that meal with Jesus.

Each time I am privileged to stand at the altar while the priest consecrates the bread and the wine, I feel like I am being transported by a time machine. The sanctuary becomes surreal, almost dreamlike, and I find myself back in that Upper Room in Jerusalem where Jesus is breaking the bread and sharing the cup.

As a deacon, I have been privileged to share in many deeply personal moments in the lives of others, moments of sadness and moments of joy. But no moment is as special as the moment when I look into your eyes, my sisters and brothers, hand you the Eucharist and say, “the Body of Christ.” At that moment, time and space stand still. What a joy to be present as you embrace Our Lord. What a privilege to be present at this moment of communion.

The Eucharist is a wonderful sacramental gift. But Jesus is still here among us physically, as well. If you’re like me, you probably walk right by without recognizing him.

In the parable of the Last Judgment in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, where the sheep are being separated from the goats, Jesus tells us exactly where we can find him:

Then the Lord will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you . . .

For I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothe me, sick and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink?

And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked, and clothe you?

When did we see you sick and care for you, or in prison, and visit you?”

The Lord will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, whatever you did for the least of your brothers or sisters, you did for me.”

Matthew 25: 34 – 40

If Jesus walked the earth today in the year 2016, I can imagine he might add these words:

For I was difficult to get along with and you remained my friend and continued to love me;

I was an unborn child and you not only protested for my right to life, but you sheltered and guided my unwed mother, you adopted me and loved me as your own;

I was unfaithful and betrayed your trust and you forgave me and gave me another chance;

I was a victim of hatred or bullying because I was gay, or because I was Jewish or Muslim or black or white or Asian and you stood by my side and were a voice for justice;

I was a refugee fleeing violence and oppression in my native country and you welcomed me;

I was on death row and you spared my life and showed me the unconditional forgiveness and mercy of the Father.

As we enjoy this feast of the Body of Christ, let us thank God for the wonderful gift of Christ’s body present to us sacramentally in the Eucharist. And let us cherish, embrace and soothe the body of Christ present to us physically in all of our brothers and sisters.

Readers of this blog might enjoy these books by Deacon Lex. Both are available on Amazon.com:

Just to Follow My Friend: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life

The Gospel of You, The Gospel of Me: Making Christ Present in Everyday Life

Synchronicity as the Work of the Holy Spirit: Jungian Insights for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Ministry

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