Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday word, 25 May 2008

Solemnity of the Body & Blood of Christ A (25 May 2008) Dt 8. 2-3,14b-16a; Ps 147; 1Co 10. 16-17; Jn 6. 51-58
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
More Vital Participation

I want to reflect briefly with you today on Jesus’ body and blood from this perspective: participating in Jesus shapes how we participate in the lives of one another.

For all the differences between St. Paul’s time and culture and our own, the way people choose to associate with others today is remarkably similar. Corinth, a large city had a broad diversity of people due in large measure to the city’s port, as well as a gateway to the interior of the country. Sounds like Cleveland of old, doesn’t it. In both Corinth and Cleveland of old--and now--people voluntarily associated with others moved by similar interests.

Then and now: clubs, ancient and modern; guilds of workers with the same materials and people who shared similar crafts; people with similar tastes in art, music; athletes and soldiers; even the poor and sick--then and now people with similar interests and intersecting roles in society easily participated in each others lives. Ancients' strict class-distinctions--something foreign to our American heritage--made similar interests all the more binding.

Any of us can operate out of similar interests only, because of fear of the unknown, distrust of anything new or a desire to be comfortable. We all know that never to explore ensures a dull life; that never to trust ensures no reward of intimate satisfaction and growth; and to choose only comfort is a springboard to emotional and; spiritual flabbiness. Associating only out of similar interests guarantees listless lives.

The good news St. Paul brought to Corinth, the good news St. Paul offers us, is that Jesus offers himself to us so that we may lead vital lives and associate with those who are different, chiefly the poor, the infirm and those we keep at the margins of society, not to mention our hearts. The ones at the margins were those with whom Jesus had a particular friendship. Jesus’ friendship with humans was not shaped or defined by similar interests. Jesus came inviting sinners, then and now; he came setting free those in bondage.

Jesus’ friendship with humans embodied his friendship with God. Jesus’ friendship with humans allows us to see, hear, touch God’s heart. Even better news is that Jesus refused to be the only channel of God’s heart and God’s freeing, healing love to the world. Jesus gave himself to nourish us and strengthen us to channel God’s freeing, healing love we experience to others.

Jesus’ body and blood are the life and love of Jesus and transform us more and more like him. We become the one we receive! We come more and more to live and breathe an atmosphere that flows not out of similar interests or comforts but from Jesus' very self.

The body and blood our Messiah Jesus is not some representation of Jesus or symbols of his love and self-gift for the life of the world.

Jesus’ vitality, his very being as our Creator and Redeemer, is his Holy Spirit. By Holy Spirit we participate in Jesus’ friendship with God and friendship with humans. As we partake in Jesus we participate in the lives of all people as Jesus commissions us each day.

Understanding St. Paul’s use of friendship language--participation, fellowship--and that we are together within the spiritual borders of the church offers us new insight to the sacrament of the eucharist. That new insight is that our share in Jesus’ body and blood deepens our friendship with Jesus and shapes how we participate in and with the lives of others. In a word, our desire for Jesus’ eucharist moves us beyond ourselves to serve others in order to glorify him.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, begin by asking the Trinity to see yourself, others and the world as they see. Ask St. Paul to deepen your awareness of Jesus and how he abides with you in his body and blood. Speak to Jesus about how you would rather be comfortable and feel no challenge; then about how you hunger for Jesus, thirst for his justice and desire to make him better known. Resolve to receive the eucharist with your new awareness Jesus gives. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which transforms our request for “our daily bread” into power to become the one we receive.
Wiki-image of the Gulf of Corinth is used under the GFDL. Wiki-image of procession at a Eucharistic Congress is in the public domain.

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