Living Pentecost: the Body and Blood of Christ
Pentecost has a very important influence on today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, if we could unravel the ball of string of our Sacred History we would be astounded at the many ‘Spirit’-led connections to Jesus’ offer of Himself to us in the food of His Body. The earliest is related to the mysterious priest Melchizedek, who offered Abraham a blessing of bread and wine. That event prefigured the Messiah who would establishment God’s kingdom. Abraham’s son Isaac continues that connection in prefiguring of Christ’s sacrifice.
Humanity is genetically designed to seek to appease the Divine for the mess we make of our world and lives. Passover sacrifices were at the heart of Jewish expression of that desire. In the year 70 A.D. Josephus, a Jewish historian recorded that 256,500 lambs were offered in sacrifice in the Temple. Lambs are the most vulnerable of all the animals. The High Priests who offered the Passover sacrifice could enter the Holy of Holies only once a year for a brief time due to their sinfulness. Jesus came among us as a Lamb, identifying with all the bloody sacrifices of those slaughtered lambs by replacing their sacrifice with His own. He was not only victim but also priest. Jesus became the sacrifice through offering Himself once and as priest entered God’s Holy of Holies on our behalf!
The Holy Spirit left us many clues about God’s plans for us. Without the Holy Spirit we would not be able to experience that one act of sacrifice Jesus offered to the Father. It is only through the action of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is made present to us in the form of bread and wine. Our faith in the Eucharist finds support in the prayer the priest says at Mass. “We entreat You (God); sanctify these gifts by the outpouring of your Spirit, that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son…” The Holy Spirit is the instrumental cause of the real presence of Christ among us. And the Holy Spirit has continued to renew the life of the Church through the theological mysteries revealed to the Church through saints who have become our teachers in helping us understand the fullness of what the Eucharist means for us.
They include: Paul the Apostle, St. Juliana, a Belgian mystic of the 12th Century, the then Pope who invited St. Thomas Aquinas to promote the Eucharist. The Church through the Holy Spirit continues to enrich us with other Eucharistic meanings: as a feast, memorial, sign of unity, bond of charity, paschal banquet and the pledge of eternal glory.
Living the Resurrection # 5
Today we are celebrating Pentecost, a feast that is integral to the Resurrection for those of us on earth. I have often wondered and jokingly said that I am going to write the Pope and suggest that we call Ordinary Time, the Time of Pentecost. In reality, that is what ordinary time is, time after Pentecost. Time in which we can access the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Who continues to energize and sustain the Church! So, in talking about living the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit completes our capacity to live it.
We only need to observe the powerful effects produced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost to appreciate the significance of the Spirit’s presence among us: How thousands came to the knowledge and saving influence of Jesus’ death and resurrection! How the Apostles were transformed by the Pentecost event and courageously and fearlessly preached the name of Jesus. It only seems natural that as we come to the conclusion of the Easter Season the dynamic of the Holy Spirit’s effect on us personally and on the Church generally is something we need to integrate into the consciousness of our faith life. The Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church! Pushed us out of the nest to enable us to become transformers to the world in which we live. The question is how well are we flying under the Spirit’s presence?
Like the consciousness of living the Resurrection, unless we intentionalize what we believe we lose the ability to enter into the reality of its meaning. We give more of our consciousness to the immediate, multiple, and material demands that absorb our attentions. In spite of that, we do live in a unique existence that allows us to experience Jesus through His Words recorded by the Church, to receive the physical presence of His body and blood, and now on Pentecost have the ability to be aware of His Spirit nurturing, nudging, and inviting us to a greater intimacy with him. The great accomplishments throughout the Church’s History came through those who lived the Resurrection and maximized its potential! They continue to inspire us and model the Person of Jesus for us by their love for God and their selfless service to others. The Transforming Spirit of Pentecost is responsible for all those good and healing activities to humanity.
We only need ask ourselves how we have allowed the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. Often, we don’t trust the impulses, thoughts, and graces given to us by the Holy Spirit and like a little child want to wrestle out of the grasp of the Holy Spirit’s loving embrace!