Monday, April 5, 2010

The Real Presence

LUKE 24: 1-12


When we are very young, parents and teachers try to pass on the faith to us. They give us information in the form of catechism answers, even if we are not asking questions. We might also enter into church pageants and events along with going to mass and receiving sacraments. But at some point, the facts and experience we have must come up against new information and events. For a time we will struggle and wrestle with new information. But in this time of friction between what we were told as children and what we are learning as teens and young adults, God seems to act. The rubbing of different ideas gives God's fire a chance to truly ignite a faith that will now be ours and not just that of our parents/teachers.

In the gospel for today, the women have some facts. Jesus is dead and buried. They saw this. They don't believe anything beyond this. Then they receive unexpected and new information. The stone is rolled back and Jesus is not in the tomb. Old information and new information rub against one another. The women are "puzzled' or "lost" as to what to make of this. They stand in the shrine of a tomb where Jesus was buried. The Spirit's fire ignites when things look pretty dark. Two men are seen in dazzling garments. Fear overcomes us when something of the Holy intrudes powerfully into our lives.

The men ask them why they are hanging around the shine among the dead? The two men remind the women of what Jesus told them. Memory is jogged about past information, but now it takes on a new meaning. The women are having a religious experience of faith. Now they are energized to go and tell someone what they have experienced. When our faith is only that of our parents we are not much interested in telling anyone anything about it. The women go and tell the disciples who don't believe them. It is not important that anyone respond to shared faith. It is only important that it be shared. The results are up to God. The men are not ready for new information. They are stuck.

If we are open to new teaching, information, experience, then we too will make faith our own in feeling and practice. Here is an example. We believe that the Eucharist is the precious body and blood and Jesus. We are told this and given training on how to reverence the host when we receive or have a devotion to the Eucharist. We spend lots of time cleaning out cups and bowls after communion so that no crumb or drop is lost.

But there is another teaching that is more muted. We are the precious body and blood of Christ. When the community gathers together for worship, Christ is in our midst, in each of us and all of us together. The gathered community is a primary presence of Christ before any mass consecration takes place. This idea, a teaching of Vatican II, caught fire in 1570 when Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth. She got upset and decided to enforce the closing down of churches and worship for Catholics in England. There were no more tabernacles and no more public masses of consecration. There was no precious body and blood of Jesus to be found except in secret masses.

The people gradually began to see, in their private devotions, such as the rosary, that they were the tabernacles of God and that they were the sacred presence of Christ. Rome approved of this. What can happen if this teaching takes route in you? If you begin to see first yourself and then others as the precious body and blood of Christ, you might begin to treat people with more reverence, kindness and tenderness. I have seen when some people go to mass a lot and receive communion a lot and show great respect for the communion they receive, but then go out into the world and act in a selfish and unkind manner. They prefer to sit in shrines/churches, and say their private prayers, rather than to be Christ in the world. We are not meant to spend all our time inhabiting shrines, holy places. The two men in the gospel told the women this. We are shrines and temples of God's presence, and so are the persons we encounter in our daily life. Until we get this we are not going to be much good news for anyone.

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