May 10, 2019
by Dennis Hamm, S.J.
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 277

Acts 9:1-20
Psalms 117:1BC, 2
John 6:52-59

Daily Easter Prayer

Celebrating Easter Home

For those celebrating the Feast of the Ascension today

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Prayers by and for Mothers

It sometimes happens that a parishioner brings to Mass a visiting friend who is a member of a non-Christian religion, and the visitor later says something like this: “I noticed that the priest quotes Jesus saying at the Last Supper, ‘This is my body, which is given up for you.’ And later the priest hands out the blest wafers announcing to each person, ‘The body of Christ.’ I’m sorry, but I have to say, that sounds like you are involved in some kind of ritual cannibalism. How do you understand what is going on?” The Catholic then says something like, “Wow! I never associated communion with cannibalism, ever. We believe in the real presence of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. That is, it still looks like bread and wine but the reality, the substance, has been changed into the body and blood of Christ.  But that has nothing to do with eating a dead body.”

The answer is correct, of course. But maybe the deepest issue here is that “the real presence” is about the Risen Lord. And our union with the body of the Risen Christ begins with our incorporation into his risen body that we understand as the community of the church. All our sacraments are ways of living out that intimate relationship with the living Jesus—whether it is joining Jesus’ self-offering to the Father in the Eucharist, or serving one another in new family or the faith community, or sharing our faith and hope with ‘outsiders’ who wonder what motivates our way of life.

That last part, sharing our good news, takes us directly into what today’s other readings are about—mission. The experience of the conversion of the fanatic Pharisee we first meet as Saul of Tarsus gives us another entry point to understanding the implications of Jesus’ resurrection. In the Acts of the Apostles, three separate times, Luke tells the story of Saul’s ‘eye-opening’ experience on the road to Damascus—in chapters 9, 22, and 26. Each time the core of the encounters involves Saul being overwhelmed by brightness stronger than the noontime sun and hearing a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” For the rest of his life, Saul (Paul) will unpack the insight that the one he thought was a dead fake messiah is indeed very much alive, clearly manifesting divinity, and identifying himself with the people of “the way,” the Christian community that he was trying to destroy. What’s more, this astounding reality was not only a Jewish matter but pertained to his being sent on mission to the whole human family. As Jesus says in a similar appearance to the Jewish disciple Ananias, "Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel …” That is exactly why, in today’s Responsorial Psalm, the church joins the mission mandate of Mark 16:15 (“Go out to all the world and proclaim the good news”) with two verses from the beginning of Psalm 117: “Praise the LORD, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples!” … “For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.”)    

Risen Lord Jesus, you are indeed our good news that we share with ‘all the world’ by enabling us to participate in your living body, even being your living body in the way that Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) taught us to understand your real presence in this hungry world of yours, now and forever. Alleluia!

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