Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thursday in the Octave of Easter: Love in the flesh

Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have … You are witnesses of these things.” – Lk 24:39, 48

Despite arguments to the contrary, two evidences stand out regarding the physical Resurrection of Jesus. In the past two thousand years, believers are consistently transformed by their encounters with the Risen One in two ways. First, as they stand with and serve the poor. Second, as they participate in the Eucharist. How is it that the first disciples were transformed from a fearful group hiding behind locked doors to a missionary band spreading like wildfire throughout the Mediterranean world? What empowered them to let go of being terrified at the possibility of suffering the same fate as their teacher and courageously faced persecution and death as they witnessed their faith? They broke bread together. They cared for the least among them. And this pattern has consistently helped Christians encounter the living God these past two millennium. Perhaps it is not a coincidence in today’s Gospel that the Risen Jesus met the disciples as they huddled in fear. He showed his physical wounds, broke bread with them, and revealed himself as the Suffering Servant. God’s power shining through suffering, through the Eucharist as in those who suffers. The Body of Christ broken.

What if the Eucharist is God’s physical embrace? What if the poor and marginalized is Christ’s crucified presence? Then it is not so farfetched that these two ways steadily reveal Christ’s Real Presence in the world. What’s real involves the body, the flesh, but more than material form. What’s real is what’s consistently life-giving, transforming, growth-empowering. And perhaps what’s more real is what lasts? For example, do we distinguish genuine love by the feelings we get or by its transformative power, the way we forget ourselves and become our best selves? Feelings are fleeting while growth lasts. My parents’ consistent care in the way their children and grandchildren grow physically, psychologically, and in faith throughout the past fifty years testifies to the reality of their love. They mirror Christ’s love in the flesh.

A wise, elderly Jesuit once told me, “Just show up [for prayer], God will be there.” If we want to encounter the Risen Christ, let us “just show up” consistently before the Eucharist and with the poor and marginalized. God is already there. Christ is waiting to console and transform us, in the flesh.

“Help me, Risen One, to love and be loved by you through the Eucharist and in your poor.”

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