Jesus’ presence makes every day extraordinary
By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB
Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, June 26
Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14b-16a; Psalm 147:12-13,14-15,19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
Most of our lives are lived in the ordinary. Our responsibilities are before us and we try to meet them each day much as we have done in the days before.
That is good. We could easily lose our grounding if the events of our days were all exciting and extraordinary.
But the danger of becoming comfortable with the ordinary is that we begin to take for granted what we have and become forgetful. Today’s readings show us the danger of forgetfulness.
We begin with the reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, which cautions the Israelites not to forget what the Lord did for them in the desert. Even while they were in the desert, the Israelites forgot that God was providing them with manna to nourish them on their journey to the Promised Land.
They grumbled or murmured that they wanted to go back to what they knew — though it was clearly a place of slavery and degradation. The writer of Deuteronomy later reminds them to look back and remember how the Lord led them through the desert. The ordinary days and years became the ground of new life for them.
FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY
In the Gospel, John is quite clear about the food Jesus offers us. “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.” (John 6:51-52) We hear these words and we believe them. But what can happen in our hearing and believing as the ordinary days go by and we repeat the ritual of the Mass is that we forget what it really means.
To live in the mystery of the Eucharist is a profound place to live. It is almost too much for our ordinary way of thinking. Thus, we forget. We forget about the tremendous gift that the Eucharist is: the gift of Jesus’ very presence with us as the food for our journey.
Quite interestingly, the Eucharist comes to us in the form of the ordinary — bread and wine. Jesus uses the most ordinary to become a very part of our being to transform us into the likeness of Christ himself. Yet we forget that the ordinary becomes extraordinary in the taking of the eucharistic bread and wine.
In the partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus, not only is the ordinary bread and wine transformed into Jesus’ presence, but we, ourselves, make the commitment to become, as St. Paul says, the Body of Christ. In the second reading from Corinthians, Paul explains that sharing the eucharistic food is “participation in” the body and blood of Christ. Just as wheat is ground into one loaf of bread, just as grapes are pressed into one cup of wine, we, in sharing the Body and Blood of Jesus become one.
St. John Chrysostom asked centuries ago, “What is the bread actually? The body of Christ. What do communicates become? The body of Christ. Just as bread is the result of many grains and although remaining themselves are not distinguished from one another because they are united with Christ, so we too are mutually united with Christ.” Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is not just for myself; it is a commitment of our responsibility toward every other person in God’s creation. As Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP, has stated, “Charity toward our neighbor, therefore, is the most essential way to prepare for worthy communion with Jesus in the Eucharist.” (“Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time”)
There is such a temptation to take Jesus’ presence for granted and forget — forget that our commitment is to be Christ’s very presence in the world each day . . . and that will make every day extraordinary.
Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She serves as pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.