by Sister Patricia Berliner, C.S.J.
IN THE LAST few weeks, we have been walking with the disciples through a holy boot camp. Losing their bravado softened them and made pathways for new ideas, beliefs and behaviors. Finally, it all started to come together and they began to see themselves, others, Jesus, and God the Father-figure as allied to one another.
They began to recognize that “each of us is all of us.” We know that this was not a realization that came quickly or easily and that their lessons weren’t over yet.
But if we, too, are called to pour out our fears, hopes, dreams, discouragement, sinfulness, likes and dislikes … this is a new level of commitment, trust, and diving into the deep.
At first, having a feast day based on the “body and blood” of another person, even if that person is God, sounds kind of gory and unpleasant. But, in reality, do we not pour ourselves out for the people who matter to us, the jobs that are our livelihoods, paying of rents, caretaking for family members or friends, trying to keep our heads above water?
We, too, are in a boot camp of sorts. How can we be true to ourselves, our beliefs, our God, our hopes, dreams, fears, and desires in a world bereft?
The Entrance Antiphon tells us that, despite how it looks, God walks with, among and within us… but also tells us that we have to take our own place as one among all the people… whether or not we like, agree with, orwould want to live with them. Remember: If we are to be one body, “each of us is all of of us.”
God knew, and probably the disciples did, too, that it would take a time to comprehend the challenge presented them. They had a hard enough time waiting in the Upper Room for Jesus to come. But that represented only the next few steps of the journey. The disciples had undergone the test of waiting alone together.
Did they question Jesus’ promises? Did they doubt His return? Did they try to leave the Upper Room, a place both physical and symbolic? God, knowing their struggle, reminded them of their Hebrew ancestors, who spent 40 years in the desert, persevering without any guarantees.
Was God’s way of dealing with His followers a cruelty; a punishment; maybe a challenge? More likely it was a reminder that life is difficult and that fidelity to God’s working in us, through us, and for us takes a lot out of us. Moses, chosen to lead the people, had a gargantuan task in front of him. His people were discontented, hungry, angry and tired. Many may have been wondering if they should pack it in. Moses kept the focus, saying, “Do not forget the Lord, Your God, who brought you out of … that place of slavery” guiding you through the desert. Could be the process of being led to safety be cruel?
Certainly, being called to “eat His flesh and drink His blood” reeked of cruelty. How could Jesus talk of freedom and then seem to return the disciples to cannibalism as part of their entrance into eternal life?
Perhaps we are called to put ourselves in the place of Jesus, to put on the mind, body, struggles, feelings of this Jesus, soon to be taken from this life. How could He in His final days get this across to the disciples who had such a hard time grasping the Old Testament truths and the teachings of this new “proclaimer,” Jesus? But if this Jesus is the one in which we live and have our being, how would we not seek to be as closely aligned to Him as possible?
In Jesus, we are bonded to God, one another and all creation. How seriously do I take the call, challenge and mandate to be one with God — Father, Son and Spirit? Would I give myself spiritually to the works of Jesus within and through me? If called to give up my emotional life as I know it, my emotional beliefs, safety nets, assumptions, dreams and hopes, could I?
Readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ:
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Sister Patricia Berliner, C.S.J., is a N.Y.S. licensed psychologist.