April 12, 2020
(Acts 10:34, 37-43; John 20:1-9)
With the combination of the epidemic and having acquired enough PTO time on the secular job, I was able to take some time off to properly celebrate Easter, by spending the Triduum in prayer and reflection.
Nothing is more soothing that sitting with our Lord and speaking back and forth.
Nothing is better that simply sitting in His presence and feeling the love and majesty pour out to all who will welcome Him.
Our Lord will not force Himself upon us. He will not beat down our door. He will stand at the door and patiently knock – for as long as it takes – until we invite Him in.
How sad it is that so many people no longer attend church services (not that anyone can do so currently due to public gatherings being restricted). Have they truly lost faith in the church, or is it merely excuses? Probably a little of both.
Christ established the church for us. He chose the Twelve – the Apostles – for a reason. To have a church. To have a place where we can all gather together and worship our Lord, to be in His presence and receive grace. He created it that we might have the Eucharist and Communion. Some would say these words are the same thing, but in reality, they are not. It isn’t so much about being part of our human manifestation of a “church,” but to be a church as Christ wills it.
In the book, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals it is put into
Eucharist is from the Greek eucharistein, meaning “thanksgiving.” Communion is from the Latin, meaning “union with.”
One of the church’s peculiar practices is communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist. The early Christians were accused of being cannibals because they talked of eating flesh and drinking blood together. It was a way of remembering, as Christ had asked them to remember him in this way.
“Re-member-ing” has to do with becoming something new, the body of Christ, in which we lose ourselves in something bigger than ourselves; we are re-membered into a new body.
Sadly, and ironically, the sharing of the Eucharist or communion table is both the most unifying and the most divisive practice in the Christian church. After all, sacrament is a “mystery,” so we don’t want to try to systematically analyze the practice of Holy Communion. What we want to do is invite you into the deepest part of this mystery. We are what we eat.
When we take the wine and bread and eat it, we are digesting Christ — or an even better way of understanding might be that we are made into a new creation as we are digested into the body of Christ. Performing the Eucharist with a community makes us into the body of Christ. As often as Christians take the common elements of bread and wine, they re-member themselves into -Jesus. In the Eucharist, we don’t just remember -Jesus in general; we remember his suffering. The bread is a broken body, and the wine is poured like shed blood. Both grain and grapes must be crushed and broken to become something new together. If you are what you eat, the Eucharist is indeed the act of uniting yourself with the one who lovingly suffered at the hands of his enemies. If you ritually cross yourself (like we Catholics do), you are stamping upon yourself the sign of the cross; you are identifying with -Jesus’ suffering love. Those who ingest and become one with the suffering body of Christ all together become the Body of Christ.
We pray as we take the elements that the Blood of -Jesus would run through our veins and that we would be digested into the body of Christ. The early church used to say, “God became man that we might become God.” Certainly, none of us is God alone, but all of us are God’s body together. God has chosen to have no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Maybe this is the greatest sacrament or mystery of our faith — that these broken pieces become one body.
As we all suffer through this epidemic, it may be a good time to reflect on our lives. Sometimes we may not love the church, but we want to love Christ. As some of you have heard me say before, and I take this from the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “if the church were perfect, none of us would be allowed in!” It is an imperfect organism to help us become closer to what Christ wanted us to be, even if some pastors fail us sometimes.
As Christians, Christ wanted us to go through life together. He wanted us to “commune” with one another. He wanted us to support and lift each other up. He wanted us to be nourished on His Body and Blood. A Body and Blood that can and does work miracles.
He didn’t want us to suffer through life on our own. In fact, He never said we wouldn’t suffer. The question isn’t whether we will suffer, because we definitely will. The question is to whom do we turn when we do suffer!
During this epidemic, we are all suffering in some way. We are being asked to stay socially distant – in an age of great technology, one would think that is easy, but we have all quickly discovered that we still need real human interaction. Some die hard tech geeks are ready to throw away their phones and be back into the world!
Some have gone so far as to question ‘where is God in all this?’
Let us remember that we are not the first to feel this way. On the first Holy Saturday 2,000 years ago, the Apostles, Mary his mother, the other Marys and disciples were all confused and deeply troubled. If this was indeed our Messiah, then why? “Why” indeed.
We are living in our own Holy Saturday this Easter. God has not forsaken us, nor is this epidemic some punishment. The world is such as it is due much to our own doing. What are we doing to the environment? Have we overused antibiotics? Many things may have contributed.
However, God has not abandoned us, but He indeed will use this. He can make good come out of evil. Maybe not exactly in ways we might like or expect, but good all the same.
God is indeed working in our lives. However, we know how the story ends. Amid confusion, anxiety, and waiting we may experience during our dark “Saturdays,” we can be assured that God is at work in the world, giving us hope of Sunday – the Resurrection of Easter morning – and a new life through Christ.
I encourage everyone to stay hopeful. I encourage everyone to pray. And when this is over, and it will indeed end, lead yourself back to our Blessed Lord. Rejoice in His saving grace. Our God is a God of the living. And we must all go forth and live – live for Christ.
I pray that everyone has a Blessed Easter. May you reflect on not being able to celebrate the day as we might like but know you soon can. The Lord will see us through this time of suffering. He never abandons us.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA