•Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14-16; I Corinthians 10: 16-17; John 51-58•
Weekly Scripture Readings: Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
Twice a year, Freeze-out Lake in Northern Montana hosts migrating snow geese. Near the end of March I heard their bi-annual migration had peaked so I drove up to Fairfield. The Fish and Game folks estimated there were approximately three hundred thousand snow geese there. I stood on the lake shore for many hours, listening to their “honking,” astounded by the immense swirls of geese that occasionally did their ballet above the lake. Finally about 6:00 in the evening they all began to fly off to the nearby grain fields. The sky was full of birds! The Nature channel has filmed similar migrations of small green parrots, sardines, Emperor Penguins, Wildebeests and a variety of insects. Their focused and concerted efforts for the protection and reproduction of their species demonstrate the implications of community.
“Jesus said to the Jewish crowds, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world’.”
“The Jews quarreled among themselves about what they heard Jesus say.” He responded with graphic images of eating and drinking. Those images prompt us to speculate about the meaning of “eternal life.”
The Mass is important for us and has been since the first generation of Christians. Mass provided the framework for the coronation of kings and popes. Musicians have turned it into a concert. Ordinary folks have layered it with their devotions and religious customs likes bows, genuflections and incense as if Eucharist were an object rather than food to be consumed. For all these years our ancestors struggled and now we struggle to understand the meaning of Eucharist.
We gather and listen to the words of Christ. We gather to break the bread and share the cup of wine in memory of him. We do so reminding ourselves he is alive and active within us and among us. The Mass provides opportunity for all who actively participate to be empowered and be for others the liberating presence of Christ.
The German theologian, Bernard Haring, was conscripted into Hitler’s army as a medical orderly and sent to the eastern front. As Hitler’s army was retreating in 1943 he found himself responsible for the safety of several wounded men. One day he summoned up the courage to knock on the door of some Russian villagers. At great risk to themselves those simple villagers took Haring and his companions into their home and shared their last food with them. Haring asked why they did so. They replied, “because they were Christian.” Those villagers had an intuitive understanding of Eucharist, of being the Living Body of Christ.
Elizabeth Johnson recently published a new book. She borrowed the title — “ASK THE BEASTS,” from the biblical book of Job which says, “ask the beasts and they will teach you.”
I began this homily with reference to the great migrations of the birds, the fish and the various creatures of Earth. “Ask the beasts.” Consult the creatures of Earth. Listen to their wisdom.
A deeply moral issue confronts us. In spite of our many abilities, we humans are ravaging the world and unlike the other creatures seem indifferent to our communal responsibility for one another. Climate change has moved firmly into the present. The effects are becoming more and more evident. Summers are longer and hotter. Many areas are suffering severe drought. Winters are generally shorter, and warmer. The polar glaciers are melting. Extreme weather events produce downpours, rising sea levels, increased flooding, and stronger tornadoes or hurricanes.
We — the Living Body of Christ who actively participate in Eucharist are empowered to be the liberating presence of Christ for others. Listen to and learn from “the beasts.” Their focused and concerted efforts for the protection and reproduction of their species gives concrete expression to the vision Christ set before us. He called it “the reign of God.” I call it “God’s new reality.” It is time for us to ask and to listen.