Carried

  • Today is Holy Thursday.
  • Today’s station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.
  • Today’s liturgy, Jesus institutes the Eucharist.

How often in our Churches is this Eucharist, Jesus himself, again laid in a tomb.  We call it “the TABERNACLE.” Originally according to the Hebrew Bible, the Tabernacle (Hebrew: מִשְׁכַּן‎, mishkan, “residence” or “dwelling place”), was the portable dwelling place for the divine. It went where the people went, it took “on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear” God’s voice.  He dwelt with them, He was in their midst, He protected them, He heard their cries, brought them out of slavery, fed them manna and gave them water in the desert.  He was their God and they were His people.  This is what a tabernacle should be…God with us.

And then, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us [Jn 1:14],[1] not just in a tent but as a man; Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. [Acts 2:22].  Again, God with us.

Today, 2000 years ago, this Jesus gave himself, his body and blood as our food and drink, this Eucharist, this true food from heaven,whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.[Jn 6:35]

Jesus did not mince words: I AM the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. [Jn 6:48-50]

He said it is the sine qua non: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. [Jn 6:53-57] Unless I wash you, you will have no part of me. [Jn 13:8] The blood of…Jesus cleanses us from all sin. [1Jn 1:7]

This Eucharist, this Body and Blood, this true food and drink, is suppose to be “the source and summit of the Christian life,”[2] sending us out to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. [Mt 28:19-20] and bringing us and all these disciples back to celebrate the heavenly banquet of the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. [Lk 22:20]

What do we have instead…Our TABERNACLE is now the fixed, locked box in which, in some Christian churches, the Eucharist is “reserved” (stored).  That first Holy Thursday, after the first Eucharist, Jesus did not say: “Let’s stay right here and the Sanhedrin will calm down and we will keep this keep this covenant all to ourselves.”  NO. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out[Jn 18:4] Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand. [Mt 26:46]

Pope Francis I likens this other tomb to our Churches:

“The biggest threat of all [to missionary zeal] gradually takes shape: ‘the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness’. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions”. Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate.[3]Some resist giving themselves over completely to mission and thus end up in a state of paralysis and acedia. [4]

Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization![5] The joy of the Eucharist!  The joy of Easter!  Today Christ bursts forth from the tomb of the Eucharist, the bread of Life.  On Easter, Christ bursts forth from the tomb of Death.

Let us not be caught in the tomb of mummies. Let us, the dead [come] out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and [our faces] wrapped in a cloth. [Jn 11:44] Let us hear Jesus say to each of us: “Untie him and let him go.” [Jn 11:44]

Let us, with Pope Francis, say: [6]

  • Yes to the challenge of a missionary spirituality
  • No to selfishness and spiritual sloth
  • No to a sterile pessimism
  • No to spiritual worldliness
  • No to warring among ourselves
  • Yes to the new relationships brought by Christ

Let us meet the challenges Francis cites in today’s world, saying: [7]

  • No to an economy of exclusion
  • No to the new idolatry of money
  • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
  • No to the inequality which spawns violence

Let us not carry the body of Jesus to the Tomb. Let us not carry the body of Jesus to the Altar of Repose in our Churches.  Let us carry our Cross with this Jesus to Calvary.  Then, on Easter, we will be ready to carry the Resurrected Jesus, the New Covenant Jesus, the Eucharistic/Thanksgiving Jesus “into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” [Mk 16:15]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324; Lumen Gentium, 11.

[3]The Joy of the Gospel,” 83.

[4] “The Joy of the Gospel,” 81.

[5] “The Joy of the Gospel,” 83.

[6] “The Joy of the Gospel,” 78-101.

[7] “The Joy of the Gospel,” 53-60.

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