Reflection for Sunday – June 19, 2022

Readings: Genesis 14: 18-20; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26; Luke 9: 11b-17 
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino

I have a question.  We go to Mass.  We hear the same words of institution.  The body of Jesus, given for us.  The blood of Jesus, poured out for us.  Here, then, is my question: do we really hear these words?  Do we really take them in?  Allow them to work in us, as Jesus had intended?  I wonder.

Isn’t there often a temptation to get distracted?  Or allow the words to escape our notice?  Or even allow them to seem like magic, as detractors of the Latin Mass used to claim?  Remember the Latin?  “Hoc est corpus meum,” meaning, “This is my Body.”  Hocus pocus, it was derisively claimed!  Magic!

No, not magic!  While I, just like Marlene last week, do not understand this great mystery of our faith, I do know this.  In a way beyond my understanding, Eucharist is truly intended to be transforming, the action of God at work in community.  Through the prayer of the priest and God’s People, the Body and Blood of Christ are given to transform us all into life beyond our capability and understanding. 

Community, all of us, are essential to this process.  Luke, in fact, picks up and expands upon the community’s role, as originally noted by Mark.  While the Marcan Jesus commands the disciples to “sit down by companies,” whereby they recline “by hundreds and by fifties,” Luke chooses to have them sit in companies of about fifty each.  Now they can see one another.  Notice and pay attention to fatigue, sickness, and difficulty of any kind.  Can they not, then, more readily respond to what they see?

But, what might help us more fully connect to the enormous power of this sacrament, the Body and Blood of Christ?  As I continued to ponder the words of institution this week, an image refused to leave me alone.  As a mother of three, I heard … saw … and remembered the power of giving birth, of a human body broken open and human blood poured out for the sake of life.  Isn’t it true, that in the Eucharist, Christ’s Body is broken open and Christ’s blood is poured out for the sake of life?  Yes: Eucharist is all about that birthing, loving, surging, life-giving action of Jesus among his followers.  Eucharist is given so that we might continually be transformed.  So that we might continually be enabled to respond to human need: to hunger, thirst, suffering, exhaustion, and all forms of death.

And yet, today, almost day in and day out, we witness just the opposite in our country: a sacrilege, rather than a sacrament.  Just the opposite of the birthing/ transforming power of God, we witness destructive and violent slaughter by men armed with military guns.  In effect, we are endangered by the power of death at every turn.  With gun laws that make too few restrictions, with gun laws that have no teeth.  With the seemingly endless possibility of mentally deranged people breaking open the bodies and spilling the blood even of our precious children.  Who can forget that fourth grade girl, Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself in blood before calling for help on her teacher’s cell phone?  Who can possibly imagine the heartbreak of parents in Uvalde, Texas?  And then refuse to do something to curb this insane violence?

The time has come for us all to stop throwing up our hands in helplessness.  Rather, the time has come to see the carnage.  Take in its effects.  And then, to reflect and witness to the power of God’s transforming, birthing, life-giving love in the Eucharist.  To come together with others, in groups of fifty, or thereabouts, to the absolute need to stop this violence.  Now!  Before any more precious lives are taken. 

 If we really believe in the transforming, birthing power of love and life that Jesus gave us in the Eucharist, if we continue to come to Mass and know that we are sent forth as God’s People to live out the precious lives we have been given, then we must stop.  Ask ourselves what we can do, with others.  And then, in the transforming love of Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit, take that action.  Will we continue to sit back and do nothing?  Or, will we take on our Christian responsibility to give life, rooted in Christ’s love, for ourselves and for one another? 

How will we answer that question?

Gloria Ulterino
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