On the night before Jesus died, he took bread and said “this is my body… given up for you.”
With these words, Jesus expressed to His apostles and to us the totality of His love. A love so deep that He would go from town to town with little rest and little food, preaching and healing and teaching with such passion that many called Him crazy.
His was a body that was beautiful if just by the reality that He received it from Mary, our pure and beautiful Mother. The purity and innocence of His body would make the suffering all the greater; His hands pierced, His heart struck through with a lance—the Passover lamb, slain.
But He would rise in glory. And when Thomas doubted that Jesus could still be seen—and not just seen, but touched—Thomas demanded to do precisely that. And he did: his hand entering into the very body of Jesus Christ.
Thomas, this is my body… given up for you.
This would happen again, when the two disciples were walking to Emmaus. They encountered the risen Lord and they begged Him to stay with them. (Ask and you shall receive!) So, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened. And at that very moment, Jesus disappeared—or, so they thought. In their hands was no longer bread, but Jesus. His flesh had become true food. He had answered their prayer. Such that they not only could touch, but taste.
This is my body, given up for you.
* * *
As a priest, I hear these words every day. I say them every day. They are the deepest, most profound words that will ever pass my lips. They challenge me because Jesus doesn’t just love me with His lips; He doesn’t just love me with His heart; He loves me with His entire life—even unto death. And I, a priest, called to be another Christ, must do the same: to love not just with my words, but with my life. Often when I am at the altar, I ask the Lord to help me to love as He loved. Because I know my life does not clearly resemble and radiate the love that Jesus has for all of us.
I realize that I need transformation.
* * *
In the Second World War, Gereon Goldmann was not yet a priest. He was a German who had been conscripted to fight for the Nazis. He was Catholic and entered the army anyway, seeing it as a chance to evangelize from the inside out. (Now that’s gutsy!) He never fired his gun. He was a medic.
During the battle for Mussina on the island of Sicily, Gereon saw his German brothers being slaughtered near a bridge. Knowing that many were Catholic, he went to a local Church, obtained the Eucharist, and ran down to the bridge. In order to reach his brothers, he would have to cross the bridge—a bridge fortified by allied machine guns. Gereon pulled out his flag with the red cross on it—the sign of being a medic—and began waving it as he started to cross the bridge. But it wasn’t seen and he was shot at. He evaded being hit and eventually his flag was seen and the firing stopped. He ran to his Catholic brothers and started to give them viaticum: Jesus, visiting them at the hour of their death.
Jesus literally saying, Whoever eats my flesh will have eternal life! Eternal life, even in the midst of the darkness of World War II.
His time was short and when the Allies made an offensive, Gereon jumped into the sea to evade escape. But his love for the Eucharist was so great that as he swam hidden underwater, he kept the pyx and the Eucharist in his hand, keeping both above water. So all you would have seen was the hand and the Eucharist floating on the water.
* * *
I don’t know about you, but that fires me up. I mean, here I am, so slow to love. So slow to be transformed. I think about this story or about our Catholic brothers and sisters who are being slaughtered in the Middle East and who are literally dying to receive the Eucharist—and I’m slow to get up and quick to leave? If I am honest, I must ask myself: what am I doing here? Where is my heart?
* * *
I think of a brother priest who works in a village in Nigeria. He would offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and was impressed by the devotion of the people. At one of the Holy Masses, he was giving out Holy Communion. “The Body of Christ, The Body of Christ,…”—the people saying Amen like Mary said her Fiat.
But just as the priest was about to give the Eucharist to another man, a bunch of parishioners ran up and tackled the man. A pile of bodies were on top of him. As the man’s head emerged from under the pile, one of the women shouted at him: “You need to go to confession before you receive the Lord!”
The man, apparently, had been out drinking the night before and messing around with some of the women. And he was married.
The parishioners loved not only the Lord, but also the man. They wanted Him to be reconciled so that he wouldn’t take for granted such a great gift and, in taking it for granted, ruin his life further. They wanted transformation for him and they were willing to give up their comfortable, pew-sitting body to run up and tackle him.
This is my body, given up for you.
I want people to be just as concerned for the Eucharist and for each other as they were. I want to someday see a Knight of Columbus draw his sword and remind a lukewarm soul of the deeper realities that are here present. The edge of the lance just close enough to the soul’s heart to remind them of the lance in Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
Because this is a call for a deeper love. A deeper transformation. That our lives, our bodies, our everything may be congruous, united, and transformed in the Body of Christ which we not only receive but which we proclaim that we are to be as one Body which is the Church!
* * *
So I have two words: Bruce Jenner. (Yes, I’m going there)
Why was this the most searched item on Google this week? (If you don’t know the story, it is about a man who is being praised for surgically changing his body to mostly look like a woman—and he is being hailed as a kind of hero. ESPN is giving him a courage award).
What is the Catholic response to such things?
I do not condemn Bruce. We do not condemn. We love. And because we love, we see something that I know most people did not see. If you look at the Vanity Fair cover, you will notice that Bruce’s hands are hidden. They are behind him; it almost looks as though they are tied. It is an “Ecce Homo” moment—Latin for “Behold, the man.”
It gave me pause. I was reminded of Jesus who was similarly paraded. I realize that I could have been angry, I could have been posting angry stuff on facebook. But then I would have been just like the crowd shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him.” And I know better than that.
So I paused. And I looked closer.
It was here that I saw. I saw Jesus coming to Bruce—Bruce’s hands tied, sitting awkwardly on that chair—I saw Jesus coming to Him and untying his hands and Jesus pointing to His Sacred Heart saying: Bruce, this is my body, given up for you. Here is my love. Here is my life. Here is the transformation that you really want. Here is where your healing will begin. Take this… this is where you will find glory.
All along, Bruce was saying “This is not my body, this is not my body.” And he thought that transformation and healing was only possible by altering his body through surgery, hormones, and Photoshop. And there is Jesus saying, “This is my body.”
Vanity Fair—vanity fair—made a spectacle of it all: “Look, this is his body! This is his body!”
And, in vanity, people bought the lie that transformation happens by things such as this, instead of by the Body of Christ.
* * *
This whole thing revealed to me that all of us—individually and as a community—all of us need transformation.
Like Bruce, we are so often tied up by the world which is so, so confused and confusing. We mutilate our lives and even our bodies in the hopes that this—this!—will bring us happiness. We add layer upon artificial layer of plastic, material goods that we think will solve the nagging problem in our hearts. We busy ourselves and run fast-paced into the great nothingness of a “comfortable life.” And so often at the end of our life, we have no idea who we are and where we are…. and we die and are painted up and laid in our casket.
In a way, to the extent that we have not been transformed into Jesus, we are Bruce Jenner.
* * *
We need transformation. Because we need to be Christ. Not Bruce Jenner or Caitlyn Jenner or whoever we say we are. We need to become another Christ. All of us. And that means transformation.
That transformation begins here.
It begins when you receive. Your AMEN tells us how much you want Jesus’ offer of transformation. And let’s be honest: the mumbled Amen, the slouched shoulders, and the quick departure to whatever is next reveals to all of us that there is an epidemic of disbelief.
Therefore, before you receive, I want you to place yourself on this altar. The place of sacrifice. Spiritually place yourself and anyone in your world who needs transformation. And ask the Lord, when he sends the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into Jesus, that he might transform you and all whom you put on the altar as well. And He will. That’s a guarantee.
And second: I want you to start visiting and become more committed to visiting our Lord in the Adoration Chapel. We struggle with doubt “out there” because we live doubt in here. Visiting our Lord during the week must become part of our life and not simply an accessory to Sunday.
How many people come to me saying they have had a bad day or they can’t put the day to rest and how it affects their home life. I ask them, do you make a visit to the chapel after work?
Place all that burdens you at the feet of the Lord. Place your work, place your children, place our world—place it all at His feet and give it to Him. “Lord, it is yours. I give it to you.” It’s his work anyway, his children, his world. Give it back and then go home in peace. Finally at peace! You will be transformed!
* * *
So, let’s pray.
Father, thank you. Thank you for your Son in the Eucharist. Jesus, I believe that you are here and that you see me and hear me and love me. I pray that I have preached well of you and for you. Please transform me. So that as you give me your Body, I may in return say, Lord, this is my body, I give it to you.