Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter People

As Catholics, we are an Easter people. And we don't just celebrate Easter with eggs and baby chicks and Easter bunnies, although these things are representative of spring and the new life that the season brings. What we, as Christians, are celebrating is the New Life Jesus brings through His passion, death and Resurrection. It reminds me that Jesus not only called Himself the Resurrection and the Life, but the Bread of Life. Only through Him can we have the life He promised.
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;" John 6:68
These are the words of Peter to Jesus following His Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John. Jesus is not only the Resurrection and the Life. In John 6, He calls Himself the Bread of Life. We either accept Jesus' words when He tells us that He is the Bread of Life, or we don't. He didn't say, "I AM LIKE the bread of life." He said,  
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." John 6: 53-58
 When many of those who had been following Jesus heard this, they turned away because it was a hard saying; they could not listen to it. When they heard His voice, they hardened their hearts. But notice that Jesus did not say, "Come back. That's not what I meant. I was speaking figuratively." His response to their leaving was to turn to the twelve and ask, "Do you also wish to go away?" and Peter responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

So, when we receive Holy Communion, what are we receiving? We receive HIM - the Lamb of God - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity! Jesus is the Passover Lamb. At Passover, the lamb was completely consumed. Jesus is the New Passover Lamb. Shall we not eat and drink as He commanded us to do?

At Passover, four cups of wine were drunk. At the Last Supper, Jesus did not drink of the 4th cup, but immediately entered into His passion, the cup He refers to in the garden of Gethsemane. He waited until He was on the cross and in His thirst, Jesus cried out, "I thirst." His thirst was more than a physical one. Jesus' thirst was also for souls, Jesus drank when given wine and said, "It is finished." He was saying that the Passover meal was finished. The Passover Cup of Blessing was Jesus cup of suffering and our blessing. He drank fully from the cup the Father gave Him and when He had done this, He gave up His spirit.

Easter is too great a feast to be contained in a single day, so we not only celebrate it through the Octave of Easter - the feast of Divine Mercy, we become an Easter people, celebrating it at every Mass with every Holy Communion. We celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus with such great fervor because it is through Him that we have eternal life.

We do not receive something corruptible when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We receive Living Bread. The bread of Passover is unleavened bread; during Mass, when the priest says the words of Consecration, bread that is without life (unleavened) becomes for us Living Bread. Crushed wheat and grapes become for us, not just bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When we do this in memory of Him, it isn't just a fond remembrance of the love Jesus had for us, but a re-membering, if you will, of what Jesus did for us. We not only remember in our minds, but through the power of Jesus' Words and though the actions of the priest 'in persona Christi', we are taken back to the Last Supper and to Calvary, to witness the fullness of what Jesus did for us. We are not sacrificing Jesus all over again, but are witnessing His once and for all time passion, death and Resurrection.

Why also His Resurrection? Because what we receive is incorrupt. David foresaw the cup from which Our Lord would drink and he foresaw His Resurrection. In  the Psalm read on Easter Monday, we hear,

"The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; thou holdest my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. For thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the Pit. Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.  Psalm 16:5-11 

The first lines of the Psalm reflect Jesus' Passion in Gethsemane. Jesus did not refuse the cup the Father gave Him and Jesus does not curse the cup. Instead, He blesses it because it is the path of life that leads to the Father in whose presence is fullness of joy. In the first reading at Mass on Easter Monday, it says of David,
"Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.  Acts 2:30-31
We must know that what we receive is incorrupt. We shall become what we eat. So, let us be that Easter people. Let us thirst for Him as He thirsts for us. Let us eat and drink and be merry, for it is the path of life that leads to the fullness of joy we will experience in the presence of the Father. Amen! Alleluia!

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