1 Corinthians 11:23-26
|Date:||June 22-23, 2019 - The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Cycle C|
One of the questions that I've asked parents who bring their child for Baptism is: why are you asking the Catholic Church to baptize your baby? I get a lot of different answers but occasionally I get one that goes something like this:
I was brought up Catholic and I want my child to have a faith. When they grow up they may choose something else but this is how I want to start them out.
Most of the time these parents do not seem to be at all bothered by the prospect of their child choosing some other religion, as if one religion is as good as another as far as they can tell. What do you think? Is being a Catholic important? If so why? (If not, why not?)
Today's feast, the Body and Blood of Christ, can help us answer that question. I am guessing that most of your answers had something to do with getting to heaven. When I was growing up, I got the wrong impression about why it was important to be Catholic. I thought that the Church's teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation meant you had to be Catholic to get to heaven. But as I got older, I learned that when we say Jesus came into the world to bring salvation, we mean that Jesus brings us eternal life, in other words participation in the divine life and love of the Trinity. And we can start to experience that here and now. Paul tells us that it is God's plan to bring all things into one under Jesus Christ. All things, not just Catholics, not just the baptized, not just people, but all people, all things, all animals, all the planets and stars, everything. That's the kingdom of God; that's God's idea of salvation. And how is God going to do that?
Well, think about the Incarnation in the most simplistic terms. God sees that the world has really gotten itself into a mess and needs to be put back on the road to salvation, to becoming one. So what does he do? Come down from heaven and sweep up all the good people and bring them to some Garden of Eden? No, he gets down in the mess with us as a human being! And then he walks around doing absolutely ordinary human things: walking, listening, talking, and eating with people. And then he commissions disciples to carry on with what he started, after he goes back to the Father. In other words, Jesus reminds us that from beginning to end, God's plan is to bring about salvation through humans, through humans being totally human, right here on this earth. And that requires the real presence of Christ here on earth.
All three of our readings remind us how holy and sacred is this most ordinary and human of actions: sharing a meal. Jesus could have picked any of hundreds of ways for us to remember him and to continue his mission, and he picked this way: to share himself with us as food for our body as well as for our spirit, and to do this in the context of a shared meal: Feeding each other, giving drink to each other, nourishing each other, healing each other. In sharing the Eucharist, doing this in memory of Christ, we become the Body and Blood of Christ. Our mission is to spread that good news, to build up the Body and Blood of God's anointed one, until it encompasses the whole universe, until we all become one in Christ. That is God's plan. And we are the means He has chosen to make it happen. That is why it is so very important to be Catholic, in other words to be formed into the Body of Christ through baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Because God is a lover not a dictator. The only way God will bring everything into one in Christ is by attracting them to become one, not by forcing them. So what I understand the Church's teaching to mean now is that through the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, the body of Christ grows and strenghthens in this world so it can attract others into a relationship with Christ. As the Incarnation reveals to us, this real presence of Christ in human form is essential to God's plan for sharing his eternal life.
Being Catholic means understanding that our faith, our religion, our call is not simply to get to heaven, but to be the Body of Christ, the incarnation of God's love here in this world so that God can complete his plan to bring all things to one in Christ, five loaves and two fishes at a time.