May 1, 2020
by Kyle Lierk
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 277

Acts 9:1-20
Psalms 117:1BC, 2
John 6:52-29

Celebrating Easter


Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Finding Hope in the Easter Season

Letting Myself Be Reborn

Walking on the muddy, coconut tree-shaded road of the village in Micronesia near the Jesuit high school where I was a post-graduate volunteer the dense, humid air was cut by the same words echoing from every house I passed:  “Sare mongo!”  “Come, let’s eat!”  People living on very little gave not a second thought to offering what limited resources they had to a total stranger.  Never before or since have I lived in a place that demonstrates such radical hospitality.  As a freshly-minted college graduate steeped in a Jesuit vision that wanted to change the world, I went to Micronesia naively thinking I would have something to offer when, in fact, I was the one invited to find sustenance from this people’s generosity and ended up being consumed by their grace.

According to Luke’s version of Jesus’ birth, he broke into our world in the gritty, humble, unexpected place of a stable.  Surrounded by the warm, odoriferous bodies of animals, his parents laid him in a manger--a trough out of which animals would feed.  What a poetic foreshadowing of what we now hear from Jesus himself in today’s Gospel from John:

“Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life…”

“For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink…”

“Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him…”

In seven short verses, Jesus says something about eating six times.  It is no wonder, if you ask me, that the “Jews quarreled among themselves” upon hearing all of this.  These statements are bold, confusing and, like the place where Jesus was born:  gritty!  

My sense is that Jesus is inviting those around him, and us today, for a deeply intimate and profoundly personal encounter.  He wants us to both consume and to be consumed by him.  That requires trust and vulnerability.  We like to be the ones in control and he is asking that we surrender our very essence into his substance.  By the basic, bodily act of eating, Jesus seems to desire a consubstantial relationship with the human family.  It is on us, then, to accept this invitation through faith and action.  Where in our daily routines do we find Jesus and how do we absorb and digest what he has to offer us?

The poet Mary Oliver has a response to this question in her piece “The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside Our Church:  The Eucharist”:

Something has happened
to the bread
and the wine.

They have been blessed.
What now?
The body leans forward

to receive the gift
from the priest’s hand,
then the chalice.

They are something else now
from what they were
before this began.

I want
to see Jesus,
maybe in the clouds

or on the shore,
just walking,
beautiful man

and clearly
someone else

On the hard days
I ask myself
if I ever will.

Also there are times
my body whispers to me
that I have.

In these ongoing weeks and months of social distancing when we are unable to receive the Eucharist at Mass (and perhaps feeling distant from Jesus), we are invited to stay close to Jesus’ body by how we attend to our own body, the bodies of those in our human family and the body of creation.  We are called to the table of consummation by Jesus and our faith in how we live our lives.  “Come, let’s eat!”  Let us feast on the One who offers us eternal life.

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