God had a specific plan in mind when he sent us Jesus Christ. Every word Jesus uttered and ever act Jesus ever performed during his ministry was done specifically for us. The words and actions of Jesus in that upper room the night before he died are critical to us understanding God’s plan for us. Those words recorded in John’s gospel, chapters 13 through 17, hold the key for us to not only embrace God’s plan for our restoration but to live it.
It is that night in the upper room that Jesus institutes the Eucharist. Odd thing about that is John does not mention the Eucharist in his account of Jesus in that upper room. That does not mean it did not happen nor should it reduce its significance for us. I think it just means that there was something else going on in that upper room that is just as important for us to embrace. John is not avoiding the last supper discourse for it is John who recounts for us the time Jesus said “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves” (Jn. 6:53).
John is focused on something more while the other gospel writers show us how this “eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man” would be something we as church do every time we gather. During the Eucharist Jesus is present to us all over again and the words of consecration should transport us back to that upper room where we join in with the disciples to be in the very presence of Jesus. At the same time, in our private prayer, we should visually go to that upper room and listen to all Jesus said and did. We should open our bibles and read John 13 – 17 because everything he did and said that night has significant meaning for us. God’s plan to restore our glory left nothing to chance but it does depend on us accepting the gifts given to us that night.
Intimacy with God is there for us if we but act on the promises of God. Jesus before the left that upper room tells us how we can unlock the mystery of all God intended for us. He tells us he would send us the Spirit, the promise of God, who will remind us of all he ever said and all he ever did. During my homily on Pentecost I spoke about the full meaning of the gift of the Spirit. In case you did not read it you can read it by clicking on the Feast and Holy Days link on the menu bar then look for Pentecost 15. There is a key prophecy I refer to about the Spirit that is found in the Book of Jeremiah Chapter 31:31-34.
I am not going to rehash the prophecy but in it God said he would change our hearts and forgive our sins. Just before that promise in the 31st chapter of Jeremiah is made God’s says this to us, “…for I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, but to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). This my brothers and sisters is the one thing we should keep in mind about God’s plans for us. It is one thing we should keep in mind during this feast of the body and blood of Christ. God desires to give us good things and a life of hope.
So as we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ we should never ignore the entirety of God’s plan because if we do we will never ever grasp the full meaning of the Eucharist. We are a Eucharistic Church. We constantly remind ourselves that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith. We should ask ourselves why Jesus would leave us this gift of himself and what should we do with it. Jesus’ own words tell us our ability to live fully in the kingdom of God established by Jesus depends of us taking him at his word… unless you eat and drink you have no life.
Jesus in that upper room provided for us a means by which we can eat his body and drink his blood while he is with the Father and without us shocking the world. Jesus in that upper room also provides for us a means to live as disciples by promising to send us the Holy Spirit. Two separate gifts for us to be the people God created us to be and yet we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit for both. I invite you to listen attentively to the words of institution as our presider extends his hands over the gifts. His prayers invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon those gifts and make them the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. These two gifts, the Eucharist and the Spirit, make Jesus present to us and are intended to change our hearts so they burn with the love of God.
Love demands a response. What is our response? If you go back and look at the data I provided in my homily last year on this feast day (Corpus Christi) you will see many Catholics just do not believe the Eucharist is the very body and blood of Jesus. I know many of us just do not understand the role of the Spirit in changing our attitudes about prayer, scripture, forgiveness of sin, transforming our hearts and so much more.
In that prophecy found in the 31st Chapter of Jeremiah God tells us that no longer will we have to tell others to know the Lord for from the least to the greatest all will know him. If you look at our parish programs, you will find that we do offer many programs that are intended to teach us how to know the lord. I believe that prophecy is telling us that as we try to grow spiritually we are missing the opportunity to allow the Spirit to change us so we begin to live for the lord as disciples. It is by our love they will know we are Christians.
This Sunday we will hear many sermons today trying to explain exactly how bread and wine become the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. The truth is we cannot explain it but we can believe it and act upon it. Oh, we can use big words to tell you how the bread remains in the form, texture and taste of bread and how the wine remains in the form, texture and taste of wine but it has truly become the actual body and blood of Jesus. Tut we all know that does not explain it at all.
If anywhere from 43% to 70% of Catholics do not believe the Eucharist is the very body and blood of Jesus how can anything we teach make a difference. The only thing that can make a difference is to experience Jesus the exact way Thomas did – by touching him and having him touch you. That is why the gift of the Spirit is so important for us to invite into our hearts. It is the Spirt that will open our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to receive the very presence of Jesus in our lives.
God can then do what he has always done – enfold you in his arms, pour his forgiveness into your hearts and make your hearts burn within you. It is then each of us will act on what we believe and we will help others know the Lord as we have come to know him.