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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

The Visible Sign

Thursday, August 17, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for Thursday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time: LECTIONARY no. 416 (Jos 3: 7-10a, 11, 13-17; Ps 114: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Mt 18: 21 to 19: 1) The Responsorial is just Alleluia! but the verses (Psalm 114) recall the “signs” God worked as he brought his people into the Promised Land. In Joshua 3:7-17 the Lord promises to work wonders for Joshua in the sight of the people “so they may know I am with you.” When Joshua tells the people what they are going to see, he echoes: “This is how you will know that there is a living God in your midst....” Note that the “ark of the covenant” is mentioned seven times in the chapter as a visible sign of God’s presence and power. Ideally, we should not have to see to believe, as Jesus told Thomas.[i] But God knows our human nature calls out for something visible to focus our faith. To the Jews he gave the ark of the covenant as a visible sign of his presence. To us he gives more: the Eucharist that is the real presence of his Body and Blood under the visible appearances of bread and wine. The Eucharist is also a visible sign of the “new and eternal Covenant” that is sealed in the blood of Christ. We ask God in the Epiclesis, “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts” of bread and wine “so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are asking for a visible sign “so that we may know.” And God answers the prayer of his Church. Jesus becomes visibly present to us as he did in his Incarnation. His divine humanity is visible; it just has the appearance of bread and wine. Under those appearances Jesus is present in the act of offering himself on the cross as Priest. At the same time, he is present as rising from the dead (in God’s time all moments are one). As risen he continues to bear witness as Prophet: “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead....” He is also present as King — “and the ruler of the kings of the earth” — he who will return in triumph when the establishment of his reign on earth is complete.[ii] After the Institution Narrative (the Consecration/Elevation) we will acclaim his triple presence: “Christ has died (as Priest), Christ is risen (as Prophet), Christ will come again (as King).” In Preface V for weekdays, we “celebrate his death” as Priest with love. We “proclaim his resurrection” as Prophet with faith. And we “await his return in glory” as King with “unwavering hope.” In the Epiclesis, when we ask God to change the gifts into his visible Body and Blood, God is saying to us: “This is how you will know there is a living God in your midst.” In Matthew 18:21 to 19:1 the words, “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” tell us we cannot celebrate the Covenant if we do not forgive all those for whom, along with ourselves, Christ shed his blood. This text previews the words of the Institution Narrative: “This is the cup of my blood... of the new and eternal Covenant, It will be shed... so that sins may be forgiven.” The New Covenant “in his blood” is inseparable from forgiveness. Jesus came to unite the world in love.

Initiative: Be one with Christ’s Blood – as forgiven and forgiving.

[i] John 20:29. [ii] Revelation 1:5.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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