Immersed in Christ: August 30, 2020
TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (Year A)
Longing for the End Time
Everyone lives for something, consciously or not. We all want “happiness,” and in practice we all identify it in some vague or explicit way with something, even if we can’t say what that is. To know what we ourselves see as “happiness,” the best way is to look at our choices. What do your choices say you are looking for?
The Entrance Antiphon (Psalm 85) begins, “I call to you all day long...” It brings to awareness the constant longing of the human heart for a nameless “more”— which we may identify with longing for God if we think about it. But most of the time we may not consciously identify it with anything, because most of the time most of us don’t consciously think about it at all. It takes something like the oft- quoted words of St. Augustine to remind us, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O God, and they shall not rest until they rest in Thee.”
This is a longing for the “end of the world,” which is in reality the beginning of the “end time,” the consummation of both Creation and Redemption in what Scripture calls the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” It is heaven. It is the Kingdom come. It is Christ’s final and total victory. It is the realization of “the mystery of God’s will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
It is what we pray for in the Our Father.
The Opening Prayer is an echo of the prayer that Jesus taught us: the Our Father, that tells us what to pray for: “Insere pectoribus nostris tui nominis amorem”— “Implant in our hearts a love of your name.” Jesus said the first desire of our hearts should be the same as his: “Father, hallowed be thy Name!” We can translate the Opening Prayer various ways in English, but what we are asking for is to “love your Name, that which reveals you as Person—the Person of the Father.”
In the alternate Opening Prayer we ask: “Fill our hearts with insight into love”— we want to understand this longing we have—“so that every thought may grow in wisdom...” “Wisdom” is defined both as a “taste” for spiritual things and as the habit of seeing everything in the light of the ultimate end. Both of these themes pervade the Rite of Communion at Mass: we begin looking explicitly toward the “end time,” and our “taste” is stimulated by the Bread of Life.
The Rite of Communion is a preview or foretaste of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” But just a preview. For Christians the time of rest does not begin until the Kingdom is established and the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” enlivens every member of the human race who will accept it. Christ has to be brought to “full stature” in every individual and in society as a whole. So the foretaste of the “peace and unity of the Kingdom” and the joy of the wedding banquet makes the Rite of Communion a launching. It sends us out to invite the whole world to the banquet and to reform those social structures that impede their acceptance.
We go out from Mass filled with peace to establish peace. That is the final plea of the alternate Opening Prayer: that “all our efforts may be filled with your peace.”
A burning fire
Jeremiah 20:7-9 seems to be complaining: “You have seduced me, O Lord” (other translations: “duped,” “enticed”). But he continues: “I let myself be seduced.” Jeremiah wants what God gives, but he can hardly stand it!
The “word of the Lord”—what he knows of God’s intentions, based on what he knows of God’s “name”— drives him to speak. If he delivers God’s message, “I become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.” If he doesn’t, it “becomes like fire burning in my heart... I grow weary holding it in. I cannot endure it.”
God is like that: he seduces us. Most people are drawn by desire to receive Christ’s body and blood in Communion. But if we think about what we are doing—“the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?”—this blessing implies death! To receive Christ’s body and blood means we accept the Covenant sealed in that blood. We accept everything expressed in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, which we have just made present in the Mass. It means we accept our Baptism, which incorporated us into the body of Christ offering himself in that sacrifice—and incorporated us as offering ourselves with him and in him: our “flesh for the life of the world.”
“Present your bodies”
To receive Communion is to ratify our Baptism and all it implies. We accept again the baptismal formula Paul makes clear in Romans 12:1-2: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice...”
When we gave our bodies to Christ at Baptism, we gave them to be his body. Henceforth, wherever our live bodies are, we are “sacrificed” to doing his will—or better, to letting him do with us, in us, and through us whatever he desires.
And what he desires is to give “his flesh for the life of the world.” To continue giving it in us. Once we “present our bodies” to him as a “living sacrifice” in Baptism, we agree to let him live and express himself physically in and through our bodies—through our every physical word, action, and gesture—to communicate his divine life to every person we encounter.
This is what it means to be consecrated, anointed with chrism in Baptism as a “priest in the Priest” and “victim in the Victim.” The Mass never lets us forget that we are sacrificed to the good of our brothers and sisters in love.
Pope Benedict XVI explains this:
•The Eucharist celebrates obliges us, and at the same time enables us, to become in our turn, bread broken for our brothers and sisters, meeting their needs and giving ourselves.
•For this reason a Eucharistic celebration that does not lead to meeting people where they live, work, and suffer, in order to bring them God’s love, does not express the truth it contains.
•In order to be faithful to the mystery that is celebrated on the altars we must, as the Apostle Paul exhorts us, offer our bodies, ourselves, as a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God (cf. Romans 12:1). We do it in those circumstances that ask us to make our “I” die and that constitute our daily “altar.”
Benedict says Eucharist is a pledge to “renew the face of the earth.” It gives hope to those longing for social reform:
The gestures of sharing create communion, renew the fabric of interpersonal relations, impressing them with free giving... and permit the construction of a civilization of love. At a time like the present... let us show solidarity to those who live in poverty in order to give all the hope of a better future worthy of human beings.
The way of love
Benedict preceded this by saying:
In our time the word “sacrifice” is not popular... Nevertheless... it has remained
fundamental, because it reveals to us the love with which God, in Christ, loves us.
And the love with which, in Christ, we love one another.
Sacrifice has never been popular. At least, not the total sacrifice Jesus asks for. In Matthew 16:21-27 Peter spoke in the name of all when, in his first statement after receiving the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” he rejected Jesus’ way of saving the world. In response to Christ’s prediction of his passion he objected; “God forbid!” In answer, Jesus turned on Peter and said, “Get out of my sight, you Satan!... You are not judging by God’s standards, but by humans.”
Pretty strong words to use on the Pope! They show how much importance Jesus gave—and gives—to dying to self in order to live for the life of all.
They also show what we accept in receiving Communion.
Do I measure my happiness by what I can do for others?
Get in touch with the fire in your heart. Share your love with others.