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The Holy Eucharist: “The Power Of His Body”

March 9, 2023 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


As a young Army officer, I learned that military readiness meant ultimate availability. A constant capacity to respond when the mission demanded an ability to pack up and move out at any time was a given. One of the easiest ways to fall short in military life was failing to respond when summoned, wherever or whenever.
There was a lot of “togetherness” back then. Nothing like the military to throw you in together with 500 of your “best friends.” There was plenty of time for shooting the breeze. “Smoking and joking” as we called it. We never thought of fearing lack of human contact. We longed rather more often for solo time at home to rest and recuperate after tank gunnery or deployments. Phone calls often came only to transmit the bare essentials of communication.
I was trained to always answer the phone in those days of home landlines. I never got over the strange impression upon later witnessing people automatically and routinely letting a call go to voicemail. Obnoxious sales calls were only just beginning to prove a nuisance.
Later came voice mail, checked for new messages upon returning each day from work. Later in the Navy there were pagers and more pressure to be on call everywhere. These were just a foretaste of ultimate availability on the go at all times provided by mobile devices. And they came with the benefit and burden of the Internet.
Communication became then something bordering at times on oppression. Expectations of a response loomed every time you hit the “send” button. We had to get used to assuming a text or email was received and read in the absence of a response of any kind.
Information and affirmation are always interconnected, but increasing substitution of technology which can’t replace the full effect provided by human presence threatens to overwhelm the other aspects of relationships.
When there is nothing else of context to provide countering information one is tempted to wonder: “Does silence mean it’s all over?” Because sometimes it does. The young people call this phenomenon “ghosting.” This from the social set that uses texting for any and all communication, shunning voice communications as too risky. But risk of failure and vulnerability are part of all relationships. Avoiding phone calls will not eliminate such.
Self-image, and ultimately relationships and love, are affected for good or ill by the ways in which ever-present technology is used and by the ways in which gestures enabled by it are interpreted.
Texting and social media, counting likes and views, are a poor substitute for relationships “in real life.” Compare the satisfaction of one single friendship to thousands of faceless finger-taps on a screen button. No contest.
Technology gives control to choose where and when to establish spaces in relationships. This is understandable and necessary in all healthy connections. For others, perhaps, the occasional perception of an unacknowledged gesture brings perhaps a sense of dissatisfaction in its train.
All of these forms of communication, affirmation, human loves and friendships will ultimately pass away, however. Important as they may be now in various ways, we cannot ultimately rely on them. Blessings they are, but the kind that come and go.
These finally are only road marks along a path to eternity guided by the hand extended by One in whom all the other gifts and graces, forms of affirmation and companionship, are granted only for a time.
I think of those spending their last days among family and receiving the visits of friends after learning the news of a terminal illness. At every moment they must remember anyone they see or anything they say or do may be for the last time on this Earth. Nothing fills our final moments with profound significance for eternity as does this tangible measured failure of the body in the last months or days of earthly life.
Experience of the finality of death and the physical ending of relationships and the love they bring is, of course, profound also for the survivors. It was the death of his mother when he was nine that led C.S. Lewis, in plumbing the depths of the experience of mourning and loss, away from atheism and to his Christian conversion as an adult. For many the life of faith comes by means of death. Loss of the settled and tranquil dependable contentment made possible by human love can free one to finally seek and find the Love and Presence which is always behind and above all the others.
But it is no less true for the many of us with no inkling in the slightest about the future time and place of our own passing. And so we must all learn the lesson of finding final and constant affirmation in the friendship of the One behind all other friendships and affirmations.
This One has already communicated His love perfectly in a manner infinitely ever so much greater than the big phone call with happy news of a birth or a promotion, or the best Internet post ever with millions of likes or “retweets.” He has done so in His Son, who is one with Him in all things. And in whom is found all His power to love and to give His eternal life.
The challenge of faith is to believe this truth. And then to live it. The “power goes out from Him” continues as grace which immerses us in the ultimate eternal source of love, Love itself. And with it the greatest affirmation and connection, the perfect relationship above and containing and superseding all others. And that thereafter if we are to live this truth, we must encounter everything else, which is less, with detachment and also as blessings from that Source of all gifts, of all that is good.
On the Second Sunday of Lent, we proclaim again in the Mass the story of ultimate affirmation and friendship. The experience of the Transfiguration was a transformational experience for the chosen few who accompanied our Lord to the mountaintop that day.
“At that time, Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them.”
These privileged few exclusively witnessed the Divine power that went out from His Body. A power that fulfills and perfects all that came before Him as mere preparation. This because He is the divine Source of all. “And His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking together with Him.”
What was given to them that day was in fact given equally to all of us as well. The reason why is what we call the “Eucharist.” From that Blessed Sacrament, the same Body, Blood, and Soul transfigured by Divinity, which the privileged few witnessed on the mountaintop, is sent forth to transform us from limited and lonely creatures to loved and affirmed souls longing for eternity where what we have begun now to love and understand will be through, with, and in Him, fulfilled infinitely and forever.
We must take the risk of venturing into the desert of silence. There we all are able find a place of discovery, contentment, and loving assurance which is made possible only by putting away the cell phone and shutting off the noise and digital devices. When we alone and in silence encounter Him, we can receive the divine “power” that goes out from Him and which is accessed only by faith.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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