Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter
Some weeks ago I referred to the fact that it is the Eucharist which has sustained me in ministry and in life. It is so central to our Christian life. But think about the many arguments and burnings at the stake that have taken place over the centuries defending one or another belief about it. It is such a contradiction!
The reality is very simple: The Eucharist is trying to show us what for Jesus is so blindingly obvious: God wants to be with us: Emmanuel.
We would much prefer God to stay in heaven, or over there, or in the tabernacle. Anywhere but here. Then we can manage God. We can do our Sunday thing and get back to our wars, hatreds, greed, and selfishness for the rest of the week.
We used to discuss years back just when did Jesus cease to be present in the Eucharist after we had consumed the host. Much of that discussion I think missed the point. Of course the Sacrament ends upon consumption. But does that mean that Christ exits stage right? Not at all. The manner of his presence is different but he is not absent.
Christ is certainly not absent from any of the Sacraments. Christ is certainly not absent from those Sacraments which endure such as matrimony. Christ is not absent from the Word proclaimed. Christ is not absent in the person of the minister. Christ is not absent from the Church gathered. And certainly God's Spirit is with us from Baptism even though we may not recognise it.
The mystery which the Eucharist points to is not just the real presence of Christ under the form of bread and wine. That Presence itself points us to the mystery of God dwelling with us. It is a constant reminder to us of what God wants. If we keep his commandments, Jesus says, the Father and he will come and make our home with us. His commandments are that we love as he has loved.
It is a bit misleading for us to use the word "commandment" in this context. Jesus is not jsut telling us another commandment amongst many. Rather he is telling us who God is. And he is telling us who we are, or are invited to be. "Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate" (Luke 6:36). God is love. God is compassion. Or as St Paul puts it, "I live now not I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
God wants to dwell in us for a reason. God wants us to share the divine life. And God wants to share that life with all people. God wants to continue to show who God is in and through us. We become the Body of Christ so that the compassion of God may work in and through us. God is above all a God of compassion. As has been said, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God has nothing better to do with his time than to stand at the gate of his house and look out for his children.
There is no other religion that hears its gods say such a thing. What began in the religion of Israel is spoken very clearly in Jesus. It is made most obvious in the Eucharist.
There is a new heaven and a new earth! Here God dwells amongst his people.