The Spirit of Identification
Reflections and Actions for the 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Year B
Joshua 24:1 – 2, 15 – 17, 18; Ephesians 5:21 – 30; John 6:60 – 69
Please use this reflection for the week and scroll down for daily actions and actions to take related to the 5 Steps.
Appreciation for life is the only thing that lets us appreciate death. Only the life Jesus promises everlasting life, divine life – makes death desirable or even acceptable. But appreciation of death as the entrance into eternal life depends on a faith that is not easy to maintain. In fact, our attitude toward death is the ultimate test of our belief in that "life to the full" which Jesus won for us on the cross.
When Jesus said, "The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh" and "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life," many of his disciples found this a "hard saying" and broke with him.
What shocked them was not just the words "eat my flesh." This Gospel was written for the early Christian community who knew Jesus was talking about Eucharist. What they found hard to believe was the whole mystery of Christ as the Son of God who came down from heaven, took flesh, died on the cross, and now gives eternal life to all who believe and are made one with him through the grace given in word and sacrament. The hard saying is everything we celebrate in the Mass.
When Peter expresses the faith of all in response to Jesus' question, "Do you also wish to go away?" this matches the passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke where Peter's confession of faith is followed by Jesus' announcement that he is going to save the world by dying. This too is a hard saying – in reality, the same hard saying, because Eucharist is inseparable from the mystery of Christ's redemptive death. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." What we celebrate in Eucharist is the value of Christ's death, which gives us a totally different attitude toward death and an entirely new appreciation of life. And this appreciation is "the wisdom of the cross."
We are invited to express our belief during the Eucharistic celebration when the Body and Blood of Christ are lifted up before the eyes of the congregation as Jesus was "lifted up" on the cross. This moment (we call it the Consecration/Elevation) follows the "institution narrative," in which the Church tells again the story of how Jesus instituted the Eucharist: He "took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take this, all of you, and eat it: This is my body, which will be given up for you."' It is an invitation to all who are present to join Jesus in offering ourselves to the Father and for the human race: "our flesh for the life of the world."
The reason why we are able to offer ourselves with Jesus during the Mass is that we were, in fact, offered with and in him on the cross. The body that hung on the cross was the Body of Christ, head and members. In his crucifixion Jesus took into his own body all of those who would be "baptized into his death" until the end of the world and he let his body be put to death to take away the sins of the world. The Mass does not repeat this moment of Christ's death, but makes it present so that we who are his Body on earth today can consciously offer ourselves with and in Christ as "victims in the Victim" to take away the sins of the world. We do this as Jesus did, by responding to evil with love, by enduring whatever injustice and oppression is inflicted on us and loving back – which includes trying to stop injustice by every means compatible with love.
Every Eucharist challenges us to decide today whose wisdom we will follow: that of this world, which "God has made foolish," or that of "Christ crucified," which is foolishness by the light of every human society. If Christ, then we offer ourselves with him in every Eucharist to serve others in love: our flesh for the life of the world.
Reflecting on This Week's Gospels
Pray daily: Lord, I give you my body that in me you might continue to save the world through love. Convert me from violence to your way of peace.
Monday: Matthew 23:13 – 22. "You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?" Which is greater, your human life, or your life offered with Christ on the altar for the life of the world?
Tuesday: Matthew 23:23 – 26. "[B]}in Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean." Have you made a deep, interior decision to live offered for others in love in union with Christ?
Wednesday: Matthew 23:27 – 32: "[A]nd you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets."' If you had lived in the time of slavery, would you have owned slaves? Would you have accepted racial segregation? What is done by good Christians in your day that you do not accept?
Thursday: Matthew 24:42 – 51. "Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." Do you recognize Jesus coming to you when things go wrong as well as when they go right? When is it easier to recognize him?
Friday: Matthew 25:1 – 13. "The foolish [bridesmaids] took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps." In your experience, what is the "oil" which best feeds the flame of faith and love in you?
Saturday: Matthew 25:14 – 30. "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master."' In how many small, easy ways can you offer yourself with Christ for the life of the world?
Living This Week's Gospels
As Christian: Renounce all use of violence as an act of faith and trust in Jesus as Savior.
As Disciple: Read and compare John 6:41 – 71 and Matthew 16:1 – 28. What facts, ideas or images do they have in common?
As Prophet: Think of a nonviolent way to handle some situation you normally would handle with violent words (shouting, cursing) or actions (angry gestures, slamming doors, sulking, retaliation).
As Priest: Whenever someone offends you, think of how Jesus looks on that person, the woundedness he sees, the desire he has to heal. Then be merciful.
As King: In two columns list the violent and nonviolent ways situations are handled where you work (or at home, or in your city). Is there any one of the violent ways you could begin to change?