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Depoliticizing “E pluribus unum”

by | Jun 18, 2014 | Formation, Reflections

Vincent EucharistThe Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (A), June 22, 2014 – Dt 8, 2-3. 14b-16a; 1 Cor 10, 16-17; Jn 6, 51-58

The loaf of bread is one, so we are one body (1 Cor 10, 17)

God feeds us while we pilgrims march through the desert toward the lasting city. Unless we are nourished with what he provides, we will be counted among the living dead and we will not know justice, peace, unity.

Like our fathers, we are visitors and aliens. Yet the owner of the world, and of all that fills it, considers us his guests. He provides for our needs. He feeds us even with heavenly bread, “ready to hand, untoiled-for, endowed with all delights and conforming to every taste,” so unknown that we ask in amazement, “What is this?”

But even more unbelievable still is that God treats well even or especially—if we take Jesus’ attitude into account—the stiff-necked, the unrighteous, “the most annoying and most difficult” (a phrase from St. Vincent de Paul, Coste X 331). That is how good our heavenly Father is; no one is good but he alone. This means that no one really is deserving of any good thing that comes from God.

It is all a matter of grace. Elijah is given food and drink not because of his merits, not because this self-proclaimed “the only prophet left” has unmasked the false religion, but rather because he is despairing and needs strength for a long journey. “The Eucharist … is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (EG 47), which is consistent with the conviction that Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners, for whom he eventually gave his body up and shed his blood.

Jesus’ death proves the extraordinary greatness of divine love. And if his friendship with sinners causes shock, how much more does his death for them do so. Surely, those who do not overcome such aversion toward someone left marginalized, on account of others’ self-righteousness, will also ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They will add: “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” and they will turn back to go on being like whitewashed tombs.

But Jesus, meek and humble of heart, still does not retract. He insists on the utmost importance of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. The importance lies in the effective meaning of the Sacrament: “whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”; “whoever had much did not have much more, and whoever had little did not have less”; to partake of the one loaf is to form one body; to love our brothers and sisters, to show compassion to those in need, is to pass from death to life; it is not enough for us wayfarers to have our fill if other wayfarers do not have it.

Ross Reyes Dizon

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