Immersed in Christ: April 18, 2020
Saturday in the Octave of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 118) gives credit to God for the prophets’ courage in bearing witness and for the faith of those who receive it: “I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.”
Jesus could not have found anything more ordinary to turn into his Body and Blood than what we put on the altar during the Presentation of Gifts. Bread and wine were the commonplace food of his time. Not anything precious, rare or exotic to set people up to believe in mystery. In the Eucharist God is made present under appearances that are about as ordinary as you can get. And it is in and through the most ordinary,
unimpressive people that he continues to reveal his presence on earth today. In us.
We may be impressive in all sorts of ways according to the standards of our society: rich, successful, recognized, honored and famous. But when we put ourselves on the altar during the Presentation of Gifts, it is under the simple appearances of bread and wine. Think about that.
Acts 4: 13-21 shows us the “leaders, elders and scribes” rejecting the witness of Peter and John because they were “uneducated, ordinary men.” The Greek words are agrammatoi “illiterate or uneducated,” and idiotai, for which the first meaning is “laymen”; that is, not experts of any kind. They “recognized them” only as “companions of Jesus” and were not impressed.1
But before we get too judgmental, we should note that in Mark 16: 9-15 those same “companions” — all eleven of what we would call the original “college of bishops” — rejected the eyewitness testimony of Mary Magdalen and of the men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. And Jesus “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.” The Christian “leaders and elders” were no more open to the testimony of the “uneducated ordinary laity” than the Jewish leaders were. Prejudice is prejudice, and common to us all, no matter what our religion is or our position in it.
Knowing the prejudice (and worse) that his followers would meet, Jesus still sent them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” And he told them what to expect:
If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because... I have chosen you out of the world —therefore the world hates you.
The prophets will encounter the “world” and its spirit both inside and outside the Church. Vatican II was clear about this:
The Church, embracing sinners in its bosom [among clergy and laity alike], is at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, and incessantly pursues the path of penance [metanoia, “change of mind and heart”] and renewal. 2
Every one of us is called to contribute to that renewal in every age — with trust in God: “I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.” That is why we put ourselves on the altar.
Initiative: Be humbled as bread, but exalted as a witness to the Bread of Life.
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