It is interesting that there is sometimes a little bit of wisdom in our misguided human actions. What the people wanted in making the Golden Calf was a tangible sign of God’s presence. What God gives them, through Moses today, is the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of the covenant God has made with the people. This is the sure sign for a frightened people that God is still present. By the Ark of the Covenant, the people know they will not be abandoned by God.
We can feel that same anxiety at times, and seek out certainty in a way that does not show forth the holiness of God. But just as the Ark of the Covenant was given as a sign of God’s presence, so to the Eucharist, present in so many Catholic churches is the reminder of the presence of Jesus all around us. Perhaps today God is asking you to seek him by visiting a Catholic church for adoration or a visit.
O gracious Lord Jesus Christ, though I, who am a sinner, in no ways presume on any merits of my own, and put all my trust in your goodness and mercy, yet do I fear and tremble in drawing near to the Table on which is spread your banquet of all delights.
Many a sin has sullied me in body and in soul because I did not restrain my thoughts nor guard my lips: nevertheless it is to you, O God of majesty and love, that I turn in my extremity, for you are the fount of mercy; to you, as quickly as I may, I speed: for you alone can heal me; I take refuge under your protection. I dare not face you as my judge, but I cleave to Thee as my saviour. Thy mercy is above all Thy works. Though I fear, because of my sins, yet I trust in you on account of your mercy. Turn, then, those pitiful eyes of yours upon me, O Jesus Christ, our everlasting king and Lord, who are God and man, and who for man was crucified. Have mercy upon me, full of misery and of sin though I be, upon me, whose only hope is in you, because of your loving-kindness. Hail! you, saving victim, offered up for me and for all mankind upon the gibbet of the cross! Hail! you, glorious and most Precious Blood, that
Hail! you, saving victim, offered up for me and for all mankind upon the gibbet of the cross! Hail! you, glorious and most Precious Blood, that flows from the wounds of Jesus Christ, my crucified Lord; to wash away the sins of all the world! Forget not, O Lord, that I am one of those whom you have created, and with your own blood have redeemed. I repent me of my sins: I will strive to amend my ways. O most merciful Father, put far from me all my iniquities and all my offences; so that, by you made whole in body and in soul, I may be accounted worthy to approach the Holy of holies. Grant, in fine, that the holy foretaste of your body and blood, which thou vgives to me, a poor sinner, may be a pledge of the full remission of my sins and of the washing away for evermore of all my guilt. From my mind may it chase away every sinful thought: in my will may it foster all holy desires: may it spur me on to the doing of works well-pleasing to you; and may it be to me, of body and of soul, a very sure protection and defence against the craft of all my enemies.
The readings today take great pains to reinforce a particularly important type of reality. When we think of real, we often think, or many people think, of the scientific world, based upon observation and fact. And while this is a good and noble way to learn about truth, the way things are, it is not the only way. There is another type of reality, a way of seeing that equally seeks the truth. And often these truths are the higher level truths, because they are the truths that do not rest on human reason (though they are reasonable) but upon the spiritual revelation of God which is always real and true, and will always be real and true.
What we celebrate today is just such a truth. There is with the Eucharist what we see — the host and the wine — and what is really and truly present, the Body and Blood of Christ. To drive home this point, the gospel of John uses really down to earth terms. Real terms. Which causes the listeners to be quite perplexed as to what Jesus means. John uses the word flesh, not just a symbol of the flesh, or a sign, or a recreation, but rather something real and true. So today, receive Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity, at Mass.
Who is Melchizedek? He is an interesting individual that we might hear at ordinations, but not really very often. In the book of Genesis he is the King of Salem, who rewards Abraham on his victory, something other kings of the day could not do. He offers bread and wine, which is seen both later in the Old Testament, and certainly in the New Testament as a foreshadowing of Christ.
It is for this reason that we often see the connection between Melchizedek and Priestly Ordination, for a man is not ordained on his own, but as a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. By referring to Melchizedek in the letter to the Hebrews, yet again this powerful distinction about Christ is made.
Christ is not high priest because he is related to the right persons. The Church today does not carry on the sacraments because of a physical relationship. Rather, by invoking Melchizedek, the author in the letter to the Hebrews is once again reminding the readers that the Jesus Christ is no ordinary high priest. No, he is the powerful Son of God, who is high priest not by physical decent, but rather by spiritual authority.
I suspect all of us have had the occasion to have our eyes tested for vision and other things. It is important, because being able to see clearly is important. Since I have, on both sides of my family, a history of Glaucoma in the family, I get a battery of such tests each year. While they are not difficult or painful tests, they do serve as a reminder of how precious the gift of sight is, and how many threats there can be to seeing well. Having had to use reading glasses for the past couple of years, I am reminded even more often of the importance of being able to see clearly.
Today’s readings show the importance of seeing clearly in another way. That is, just as we may need glasses to see clearly, at the same time, to gain understanding it matters how we see something. Things may not be what they appear if we do not see something clearly. Just as a person may need glasses or contacts to make things visible, so too we learn today that a person needs wisdom to see things clearly.
The “glasses” of faith are used when we engage Wisdom. The definition I have always found helpful for wisdom is this: wisdom is seeing as God sees. The reason I like this definition is that so much of what we do and know in life only really makes sense when we consider how God views things. If we do not consider that human beings are made in God’s image and likeness, it becomes easy to throw them away.
Simply put, as a Christian, we seek to be “people of wisdom” all of the time, seeing the world with the “glasses” of faith. So much becomes possible when we do so. And areas of faith, the way of living life, is only possible in reference to a lived relationship with God. Otherwise we struggle to understand.
This lack of seeing as God sees makes the encounter we read in today’s gospel more clear and real. The words of the gospel take on a greater starkness when we understand their meaning in the original language. The Greek John uses in his gospel can be call “earthy.” What that means is that not all of the vocabulary of John is abstract, but is rather easy to understand.
Take the word “flesh” which we hear in today’s gospel when Jesus says he gives us his flesh to eat. This is no metaphorical word he uses, such as when Paul uses the word body in referring to us, God’s people, as the body of Christ. No, Jesus means flesh, as the Greek work is sarx, which means flesh. That is everything it sounds. Using this word makes Jesus sound irrational at best.
But it is not just the use of the word we translate as flesh. When Jesus speaks about eating, the term used in Greek connotes gnawing, or munching, on the flesh of Jesus. This is quite the experience we are discussing. And so it is not unreasonable to see that many quarrel with these words of Jesus. He is a crazy man, one who might be best to avoid.
Unless we see with the eyes of faith. With faith, flesh becomes the Eucharist, and munching is more than physical. Seeing things in faith, we are then invited over and over again to remember that receiving the Eucharist is something that is meant to stay with us all the day long. The presence of Jesus sacramentally reminds us that over and over again we are invited into the great banquet where Jesus draws us deeper into a relationship of deep fulfillment.
Seeing with the eyes of faith, and thinking of the presence of Jesus as a day long invitation, is also to make the words of the first reading real for each one of us. “Wisdom has built her house.” And that house is nothing less than our hearts. It is the human heart that God chooses as a dwelling, because it it the human heart that is able to be filled with the love of God.
And so it is complete. Seeing the human heart as God’s home, seeing the Eucharist as the invitation to know that God is always present is the powerful reminder that God wants to give each one of us today. Taste, See, Touch, feel the goodness of God. Allow the glasses of faith to open clearer and clearer visions of what God wants us to do.
Even Saint Paul who writes today’s second reading seeks to help us. His commands are easily understood. “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity.” He invites us to “understand what is the will of the Lord“, and to “be filled with the Spirit.” In many ways we are invited to munch on the word of God as well. Psalms, hymns and inspired songs make for the interaction that is best for Christians.
This is what we do each Sunday when we celebrate Mass. We seek to use Mass as that way we use to see more clearly the things necessary for faith. By centering ourselves here, in this house, we are more able to discover the deep connections that are available to us because of God. Pray, read the Bible, seek the silence, consider in your lives what God wants from you. What awaits when we do is a deep and powerful friendship with the Lord Jesus who changes lives and gives love powerful enough for all eternity.
For most, the worst thing to happen is to be forgotten. Think of a children whose parents forget to pick them up. Or how about when a person is forgotten when a relationship comes to an end. It is not a pleasant feeling. It can make us angry, frustrated, sad, depressed.
There are many instances when we seek to remember others. We just celebrated Memorial Day. We take time to make sure that our heroes are not forgotten. It is not unusual to have Masses offered to remember deceased loved ones. We remember specific anniversaries of significant events.
At wakes, we often tell stories we remember about the deceased loved ones. We do not want to forget significant events we remember about those who we love and care about. By the use of the great gift of memory, past events become real, if only for a time. Since human beings are in need of connections, it is often an important priority to seek to remember people that are dear to us.
But we also know there can be times when people do not remember us. We know there can be those persons who are forgotten. Even we ourselves can feel that we do not matter in the lives of others, if only for a time. But today’s reading reminds us that as much as humans have the need to be remembered, we can feel forgotten. We can feel sometimes like no one cares.
But God can not forget. We hear this message throughout the Scriptures. Even if human beings forget, God can never forget us. The love of God is too great. The immensity of God simply cannot forget those he created in love. Isaiah the prophet tells us that even if a mother can forget, God cannot. Jesus assures us in the gospels he did not lose even one of those given him by God. And each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we discover again and again that God remains real to us in a way more powerful than anything. So, while we might forget, while we might feel forgotten, we simply cannot be forgotten by God.
We live in an age where technology has made so many things instant. The news comes to us immediately, we can text one another at the moment, and in many ways the world is just a click or two away. But this immediacy comes with a cost. Maybe it is not true for everyone, but I find in my own life I need to work at a longer attention span, back to a time when I find it (a little) easier to wait. There is the “black hole” that technology and its uses can become in our lives. Perhaps one of the biggest weaknesses is that the immediacy of technology can cause us to forget and become ignorant of our history.
For to understand the Easter Vigil means to understand the long and deep history of God’s relationship with people. In the readings tonight, especially if all are read, we are invited to “soak in” the rich salvation history. History, and the study of history is an interpretative endeavor. As much as we might like to believe there is an objective history, battles over history textbooks in states indicate that we are always seeking to discover not only “what happened”, but more importantly “what does it mean.”
The Body of Christ. Tonight provides us the powerful celebration that helps us to focus upon the beauty of the Body of Christ as presented to us in the Scriptures. The Body of Christ. It is the Eucharist. It is the people of God. Tonight’s readings put before us both profound truths. At the center of Catholic worship is the Eucharist. This is because it is true that the center of Catholic worship is Christ. It can be no other way.
The gospel reminds us though, that there is an essential relationship between the Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, the the indwelling Christ in each person. When a person hungers, Christ hungers. When a person thirsts, Christ thirsts. When someone is in prison or in hospital, then Christ is there too. It matters that we make the connection between what we do here, or more specifically, what Christ does here, and what we do in worshiping Christ both here and in the world. Our lives become the constant attempt to take what Jesus does for us here and to live it out there.