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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Christi Homily

          I have a keen attraction and a likewise repulsion to this Gospel passage. The attraction is my desire and movement to profoundly be united with Jesus in the most sensible, tangible ways; the repulsion is that I don't want to see the feelings of Jesus get profoundly hurt as many people leave him as they his words distasteful. I fear for his vulnerability as he gives his true self to others. It hurts badly when people turn away from you when they realize you are a disappointment to them. I can sense that his invitation makes them sick to their stomachs. Deep down, they have a "yuck" reaction. I can imagine the hurtful, disappointed look on his face as many walk away and I simply want to ask Jesus to tell me what he feels. I want him to know that he is not alone. Because of their response, I want to tell Jesus that I will stay with him even though what he asks of us is hard to take, and yet I want my response to be a positive one because of what he offers us.

          We meet Jesus after he tells the crowds who witnessed his miraculous feeding of the 5,000 that if they are to be his believers, they are to eat his fleshy body and drink his coursing blood. He tells them they must be like cannibals who are to chew on the meat that makes up his body. This eating is real 'crunch and munch' grinding and chomping of flesh and blood. Understandably, this idea was revolting to many partial followers that turned away from Jesus.

          Every friendship has a critical moment when we choose to remain friends or to end what we thought was going to be a satisfying relationship. After periods of intrigue and curiosity, infatuation and testing, and a safe, but mostly superficial revealing of our outer selves to the other, a relationship moves to a decisive vulnerable point when we reveal something about ourselves that we fear the other might not like to know. If we are going to be real friends, we cannot avoid this juncture. We are to choose from our gut. Will we accept this man, Jesus, as a personal companion even though we know the stakes for friendship will take more out of us than we think we can give. It is going to cost us and we will likewise feel vulnerable and get hurt.

          Jesus gives us a good model of ministry - perhaps a different model than we expected when we first signed on. If we are to minister in today's church, we are to do so from a position of vulnerability - from a position where we acknowledge our fears, our hesitations, our weaknesses, and our hurt feelings. We minister by giving our true selves away just as Jesus did. We are to reveal who we truly are to others who are in search of Christ. It does no good to hide it because people who are seeking the truth can see right through it, and the truth is, what we keep hidden is going to come out sideways with unintended consequences.

         Ministering from our vulnerabilities gives us credibility that makes us sensitive to the yearnings and desires of others. It means not that we are capable of doing or saying the right things, but that we can express compassion and care to those who are in fear or are suffering. It means our heart breaks at their broken hearts and that we rejoice when they come to a new level of freedom. The people of God aren't seeking credentials and accomplishments, but rather a heart that chooses to walk with theirs on a journey of uncertainty. They seek a companion of Jesus who is ready to share their true selves in freedom.

          I saw this type of moment earlier this morning from 2-4 a.m. as I couldn't fall asleep. Ironically, it came in a scene from the remake of the Karate Kid when the trainer, Mr. Miagi, was angrily grieving the loss of his son and wife from a car accident he inadvertently caused. As he slumped in his car as a broken down man, his twelve year old student had enough compassion to reach out to him and be with him in his grief. His training gave him a technique to be still enough to reach inside another person and mirror their feelings without moving them to another place. The student honors and respects his teacher's suffering and showed him that he could hold his pain for him. When Mr. Miagi knows he is not alone in his suffering, his recovery begins. He is teased to move away from his self-directed anger and pity to be led to the person who he truly is becoming. The inside stuff has to emerge until it finds solidarity with the other self. By radically being "with" someone, we become "for" that person. This is precisely what Jesus does for us.

          Jesus gives us himself in body and blood so he can nourish us onwards and upwards in a world that is both redeemed and fragile, but we are not to keep what he has given us to ourselves. The Eucharistic chewing and ingesting is fundamentally an action done for us so we can give our fragile selves away. While our Eucharistic liturgies are a place for us to be nourished by gathering and worshiping, we are sent on mission to the world to enact the Mass for others. Mass unfolds when we leave the chapel or church. We become who we eat. Day after day, year after year, as we consume the flesh and blood of Christ, we can't help but become like him. It is not something we can effect, but we learn the contours of his heart and we feel the depth of emotions he experiences. We see through his eyes, create with his hands, and hold the pain of others as gentle companions with a radical solidarity. By doing so, we become contemplatives in action and friends of Jesus.

          What does it mean to be a companion of Jesus today? We simply want to be friends of Jesus who, through his grace, become our true selves,revealed through our desires and emotions, the positive and negatives ones, to others so they may come to know the liberating freedom of Christ in their tiny corner of the world. We give to others (because we first give to Christ) all our liberty, memory, understanding and our entire will. We become this always-giving person by sharing all that we have and possess knowing that we are gifts given to ourselves by God for our enjoyment and happiness. No one has ever become poor by giving to the needy. The grace of Christ, that he freely offers to us in his body and blood, becomes all that we need for every movement in our lives.

          Be weak enough and vulnerable enough to give away those parts of yourself that you hold onto most strongly. Begin my bringing those areas to the Lord's table today as he gives his very body and blood to you. He will transform all you give him so he can be more present to you and our fragile world. Come. Let us feast on his invitation to friendship.

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