Spirituality of the Readings
Sunday is the last special celebration following Easter. Not that we are still in the Easter season, which ended on Pentecost. But this Sunday is still a capstone of all the celebrations since Holy Week. It gives us one crucial transition matter that still needs to come before us: the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Before this we had been shown the essence of Christianity, most of it. One more time:
Holy Thursday: we saw Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and wiping off the dirt.
Good Friday we watched Jesus as he chose love instead of “saving himself”: The highest example of real, lasting love we know of. It showed us who God is, and showed it in the flesh.
Easter: His life had been lost but love cannot be lost, so love returned him to life.
Sundays after Easter: Jesus explained to them his sacrifice and his rising and their connection with the Father’s love for the world. Thanks be to God he did explain, because it is not the easiest thing to understand.
The Ascension: Jesus went away, back to the Father. He had come forth from the Trinity and now was completing the circle. But he said he was also making a home there for us. This is how the Trinity works, by giving away love (Incarnation) and acting to return it (Cross, Resurrection).
All this is most wonderful, but what if that were the end of the story? We would have only memories.
So, on Pentecost we saw that he was staying with us in the most important way possible: he was sending the inside of his life into our hearts, the Holy Spirit. Christ’s heart would become our own heart and by this we would become his new and continuing body for the life of the world. With Spiritual eyes we saw that the Holy Trinity is made of love, and our lives are included in that love!
But now we are given the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ! Why? Don’t we already have everything necessary?
No. People want to touch Jesus. They are vaguely dissatisfied with the Holy Spirit, which is way down deep inside them. How can it cope with this material world? Moreover, we sin, often, and by this we oust the Spirit. Having done this, with our very short memories— even invited by the Spirit—we forget all the above.
So he gives us himself in bodily form!
Even as God gave Manna in the desert (First Reading), Jesus gives himself. At Mass, after we sit at the table of the Word while he feeds our memories with God’s loving life and his own, we move to the table of the Eucharist, where he gives his body and blood directly to our own body and blood!
The physical life of Christ becomes one with our bodies in this intimate joining, a parallel to the Holy Spirit coming together with our spirits. This feast of the feeding then becomes a bodily sending of us out into the physical/spiritual world, to let it see Christ and his deeds in us.
That is the capstone of this mighty season of the Lord’s coming among us: to feed us, to suffer with us, to die with us, to bring all life back to its arch-original source, God-love.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University