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Toward Beloved Community

 

 When Jesus revolutionized public worship by instituting a Eucharistic Celebration—a Love Meal—he did not tell us his End Plan was to create the Beloved Community. Nor how it would come about. Jesus left that work to the human heart and the Spirit who would inspire us.

Inspiration for me came from attending the Eucharistic Celebrations at the churches of the Monastic Order of Jerusalem in Europe. Whenever we are in Paris or Florence or Rome, we have made a point of attending their liturgies. What makes these Eucharistic Celebrations so inspiring? Dressed in white robes, the entire community—priests, sisters and brothers—mount the altar for Vespers followed by Mass. At the Kiss of Peace, they all descend into the congregation to offer the Kiss of Peace with warm smiles and gracious handshakes.

Their Kiss of Peace is not just a ritual gesture. It is intentional! Mind, heart and will are embodied in their intentionality. It says: “We are here to support you. We are here to anoint you. We are here to release the Spirit’s gifts to you.” Their demonstration should inspire us to a vision of the Beloved Community. For the Beloved Community to come about, our Kiss of Peace must first of all be intentional, not just a ritual gesture.

Wounded Community. Our Kiss of Peace must be the outward expression of our awareness that our community of sisters and brothers whom we meet at our Eucharistic Celebrations is a wounded community, and we must be moved by compassion for one another.

Compassion awakens our hearts to the fact that the Mass is not a private devotion, but a Love Meal. A Love Meal where Jesus invites us to consume bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and all the members of his Body, and where we will be consumed into Mystical Union. With this awareness, our Kiss of Peace becomes meaningful. And Jesus’ End Plan to create the Beloved Community begins to evolve.

Let us look at life’s reality. Every one carries a cross. No one escapes. In our midst at Mass, there are those who are fighting cancer or some other deadly disease or addiction or loneliness or depression. Those who are struggling with relationships—separation or divorce, unresolved issues, children who find growing up difficult. Or families with special children.

Besides, we are born into the human condition of alienation from God, alienation from anyone who is different from us, alienation from ourselves due to heartless minds. The list is endless and it is real. For these people, our Kiss of Peace says: “Whatever your cross, we support you in your suffering.” Then the Beloved Community is in the process of becoming!

Challenged Community. Do you feel challenged by your presence at Mass? We must be deeply aware of the challenge in our Eucharistic Celebrations. Jesus challenges us to pour ourselves out into his Love Meal. His Love Meal is a challenge to create the Beloved Community.

Unfortunately, the Church has taken the challenge out of our Eucharistic Celebrations. It has transformed Jesus’ Love Meal into a church service. Just follow the ritual and you are home free—no challenges. But Jesus’ Love Meal is a challenge to surrender ourselves intentionally into union with Jesus and our sisters and brothers.

Look at how challenging the core actions of our Eucharistic Celebrations are and grasp their dynamic, erotic invitations to union. When we offer up our gifts of bread and wine—symbols of our lives—together with the celebrant, we must intentionally act out our desire for spiritual communion with Jesus and our sisters and brothers. When the celebrant consecrates our gifts of bread and wine, we must intentionally be consecrated for sacrifice. At Communion time, we must intentionally receive Jesus and our sisters and brothers as bread and wine, as they receive us as bread and wine.

We must ritually act out our desire for union with Jesus and the Beloved Community. When we offer our Kiss of Peace, we are saying: “We desire Mystical Union with you and we hope you desire the same!” Then the Beloved Community begins to take shape.

Empowered Community.  Are you aware that our Eucharistic Celebrations are occasions of empowerment for you? The same Spirit who transforms bread and wine into the Body of Christ at the Consecration anoints us, empowers us. The empowerment is ours for the asking. No credentials required. No skills needed. Just heartfelt desire and awareness that the Spirit seeks to empower us.

Our work is to surrender to union with the Spirit, to yield to personal transformation by the Spirit. Focusing on one area of our personal woundedness makes the transformation process more real to us. For example, our intolerance of others who are different from us.

Just as Jesus revolutionized public worship, he also revolutionized anointing of individuals. Empowerment comes no longer through prophets, but directly through the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit anoints all who participate intentionally in his Love Meal for self-transformation and to empower others.

Christian communities cannot become the Beloved Community without each of us experiencing self-transformation.  But again, we must intentionally seek it. When we offer our Kiss of Peace, we are saying: “We are anointed and we anoint you. We release to you the Spirit’s gifts of love, hope and faith to bless and support you. Please reciprocate.” Then our community is on its way to becoming the Beloved Community.

Conclusion. Creating the Beloved Community will be the ultimate witness to Jesus’ authenticity and on-going presence and power in the world. For our part, it will take awareness and intentionality.

Awareness that our Christian community is a wounded community and our intentionality to be compassion to our sisters and brothers. Awareness that our Christian community is a challenged community and our intentionality to surrender into union with Jesus and our sisters and brothers. Awareness that our Christian community is an empowered community and our intentionality to surrender to the Spirit’s empowerment to transform ourselves and to empower our sisters and brothers for self-transformation and Mystical Union.

Love Encounter

 

Jesus’ Love Meal—our Eucharistic Celebrations—is a Love Encounter. A Love Encounter with the Father, who is the Source of All Love. A Love Encounter with Jesus, who is Love in Action. A Love Encounter with the Spirit of Love, who anoints us to live a life of love. In short, Jesus’ Love Meal is a Love Encounter with the Trinity of Love.

And profoundly, a Love Encounter with ourselves and the Beloved Community, our sisters and brothers!

Unfortunately, the Church has transformed Jesus’ Love Meal into a Church service—a ritual of words and practices centered on the celebrant, who is only the presider.  So, we have to make Jesus’ Love Meal come alive for ourselves. How? By embracing the three stages of the Love Encounter during our Eucharistic Celebrations. The three stages form a dynamic process that moves us to authentic self-love, to surrender of self into union with God and our sisters and brothers, and to spiritual empowerment to empower ourselves and others.

Encountering Love’s Source. To all appearances, at his baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus  had a God-experience: Jesus encountered the Father, the Source of All Love. And so must we, or at least desire to do so—to enter fully into Jesus’ Love Meal. But let us first look at Jesus’ experience to draw out some clues for our own encounter.

In Mt 3: v. 16-17, we read: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he (John the Baptist) saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Of course, Jesus was sinless and did not require baptism. But after his God-experience, Jesus was transformed into a person of great power and authority.

Scripture scholars have suggested that Jesus needed the Father’s expression of love to confirm his identity and mission. In light of that interpretation, I can identify with Jesus’ God-experience. This Gospel passage has helped me appreciate my own God-experience of many years ago.

My “baptism in the Jordan” took place on a weekend retreat. I came to it with much negative baggage—pockets of self-hate buried deep in my subconscious. In the first meditation of the day on the masks we wear, I saw them march across the stage of my imagination. Unbeknownst to me, the Spirit had already come down on me. This revelation stirred my anger toward myself. I vowed never to live my life that way again.

When I came up out of the water of my reflection, I felt the Source of All Love radiating out of my gut. It was as if God, the Father, was saying to me: “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” My Creator loved me. I was lovable. I could love others. I could love! Great joy burst within me.

Discovering that we are created by the Source of All Love for a life of love is the most fundamental struggle of our spiritual life. This discovery must be experiential, not a head trip. It establishes our true self-love based on our relationship with the Source of All Love, not on the narcissistic love of self. Without authentic self-love, we can neither love ourselves nor God nor our spouses nor others.

This experience of authentic self-love is a divine gift, a gift that we must constantly seek. Before we enter Jesus’ Love Meal, let us pray in an attitude of powerlessness and surrender for this gift in such words as: “Father, Source of All Love, let me encounter you. Make me aware of my union with you. Only you can gift me with true self-love. I can’t do it for myself. Let me surrender to your Spirit’s invitation to true self-love. Let me totally enter into Jesus’ Love Meal.”

Encountering Love’s Action. The historical Jesus was both Love in Action and a man of great wisdom. When he planned to leave us, he must have seriously pondered what would be his final legacy to us. Consider the problem he faced and his creative solution. The myth of the Garden of Eden reveals the threefold problem of humanity that we have all inherited. By their disobedience of God’s command, our first parents had alienated themselves from God. Problem No. 1: They had lost their natural union with God.

Problem No. 2: They had alienated themselves from one another: “…they realized that they were naked.” Their loving union had become an alienating subject-object relationship. Thus, all human relationships would be impacted.

And Problem No. 3:  Union of heart and mind that had been the glory of their personhood had become a lifetime of self-alienation with computer-like minds isolated from hearts. Jesus’ creative solution was to solve the problem of alienation in all its forms by bringing us into union through love. For this purpose, he established his Love Meal, our Eucharistic Celebrations.

Lived fully, Jesus’ Love Meal can heal us of our alienation toward God, self and others. How? By encountering the Risen Jesus who is Love in Action. To do so, we must identify with him as the loving Celebrant at the altar. The priest is just a stand-in for Jesus. We must be fully present with a caring heart and an attentive mind to the core actions of the liturgy. They are Jesus’ invitations to the Love Encounter:

  • Jesus invites us to offer up ourselves in union with him. When we offer what sustains our life—our food and drink symbolized by bread and wine—we are offering up our lives. Let us also enter deeply into Jesus’ self-offering by encountering briefly his passion and death—visualizing his crown of thorns, his flesh torn by whips,  nails hammered into his hands and feet, the lance piercing his side. Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary has made eternal the fire of Calvary that creates the crucible of his love to transform us.
  • Jesus invites us to be consecrated with him for sacrifice. As the priest consecrates our gifts of bread and wine, we all become the bread and wine. A double transubstantiation takes place—for Jesus and ourselves. Jesus has immersed us in a life of union with our sisters and brothers.
  • Lastly, Jesus invites us to be consumed with him by our sisters and brothers. Lovers experience being consumed in the act of love.  Surrender is key. We lovingly pray: “Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Jesus’ Love Meal has brought us into union as all love meals do. The Beloved Community with our sisters and brothers is being built up. Jesus anoints us for greater love and union with one another by gifting us with the Spirit of Love.

Encountering Spirit of Love.  Each time we receive Eucharist at our Love Meal, let us imagine that Sunday night in Jerusalem when the disciples were gathered behind locked doors for fear of persecution. Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is what the Risen Jesus is telling us each time we receive Eucharist! Let us respond with prayer and surrendered hearts to the Spirit of Love’s invitations to union when we receive Eucharist:

  • Union with God. Let us pray for greater union with the Father, the Source of All Love. We need to call upon the Spirit of Love, God’s own life of Love, to dispel our alienation toward the Father and awaken our hearts to greater union. For it is the Spirit who is the life-giving agent of all our creativity, all our inspiration, all our love’s aspirations. Who invites us constantly to greater love, hope and faith. Let us daily strive to hear and feel our Father’s words to us: “You are my beloved son (daughter) in whom I am well pleased.”
  • Union with Others. Let us pray for greater union with our sisters and brothers. Let us ask the Spirit to weaken our deep-seated alienation toward others, the effect of Original Sin. Let us pray that the Spirit will anoint us to live a life of compassion to our sisters and brothers—being fully present to them, with a caring heart and an attentive mind. To be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to them. To be channels of love, hope and faith to them to awaken their love, hope and faith.
  • Union with Self. Let us pray for greater union within ourselves, without which we cannot love God or others. That the Spirit free us of heartless minds so that we might truly see and understand, that we may see others as subjects, not objects. the divine in all creation. That the Spirit restore union of heart and mind within us that had been the glory of our personhood before self-alienation resulted from Original Sin.

Conclusion. The historical Jesus’ creative solution for the problem of alienation and the resulting loss of our union with God, others and ourselves was his Love Meal. It is at our Eucharistic Celebrations that the Risen Jesus anoints us with the Spirit of Love to bring us back to the Garden of Eden where our first parents experienced the Original Blessings of union with God, others, themselves and creation.

What an incredible, wonderful solution to Paradise Lost! A Love Meal that is a Love Encounter with the Source of All Love, with Love in Action and with the Spirit of Love—to bring us into union with the Trinity of Love, with ourselves and our sisters and brothers!

Jesus knew that only transformed people could transform others. That only transformed people could build the Beloved Community. That only transformed communities could transform the world—the ultimate witness of Jesus’ authenticity and power. An incredible End Plan!

Radical Surrender

In my imagination, I heard the Eucharistic Minister offering me Eucharist say: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” How beautifully those words express the dynamics of our Eucharistic experience. For our Eucharistic Celebration is Jesus’ Love Meal, and like all love meals it is an invitation to radical surrender into union. That is what the Mass is all about.

The term, “Consume and be consumed,” signifies—radical surrender. But to whom? Our Eucharistic Celebrations are a twofold invitation to radical surrender—first to the Crucified Jesus and finally to the Mystical Christ who incorporates all our sisters and brothers.

Consuming the Crucified. Before we consume, we must consume. Before we consume Eucharist, we must surrender to the Crucified Jesus. The Crucified Jesus is the most dramatic expression of Divine Love. In a moment of time, the Eternal and Infinite Being emptied Himself and took on the form of a vulnerable human being who experienced suffering and death—for us. It is the fire of Calvary that fires up the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Yet, the Crucified Jesus gets little more than an honorable mention at Mass.

We must experience radical surrender to the Crucified Lover. It is not Jesus’ wounds that we love. It is his love that we love. It is his desire to bring us into communion with the Trinity of Love that we love—to unite us with our Father who is the fountainhead of infinite love, to unite us with the Spirit of Love who is agent of all human creativity, all human inspiration, all human love’s aspirations. It is Jesus’ eros to unite us with him in one Mystical Body that we love.

Before we consume Eucharist, we must consume the Crucified Jesus. We must radically surrender to the Crucified Jesus. It is our love responding to Jesus’ love that creates the crucible of love that transforms us and prepares us for union with the Mystical Christ.

Consuming the Mystical. We no longer have the historical Jesus with us. But we have the Risen Jesus, who is now the Mystical Christ, in whom we are all incorporated. When the priest raises the host and wine at the Consecration, he is lifting up the Mystical Christ who includes all of us to be sacrificed. Sisters and brothers are co-mingled in the bread of the hosts and in the wine of the chalice. We are made Eucharist for sisters and brothers to consume the Mystical Christ and one another as bread and wine.

But how do we enter into this deeply mystical experience? It is not easy. It is like stirring the ocean. By contrast, the Crucified Jesus is tangible. We can witness Jesus’ passion and death in our imagination. It is more difficult with the Mystical Christ. Yet, union with the Mystical Christ is essential for achieving Jesus’ End Plan of creating the Beloved Community

What can we do? We can use what is tangible at our Eucharistic reception, and we can use our imagination and, most important, our desire for union. What is impossible for our rational minds does not hold back our hearts from leaping beyond the finite. We want to feel the flow of unitive energy with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers. Of course, it is the Spirit’s gift to give us this consolation, but we should make the effort.

What is tangible at our Eucharistic reception is the priest or Eucharistic Minister. Think of this person as the presider for Jesus, the role of the priest throughout the Eucharistic Celebration and now extended to Eucharistic Ministers. Whoever offers us Eucharist, he or she is inviting us to consume the Mystical Christ and to be consumed by him. We need to approach this person in a relational way. At this moment we begin our surrender into union with the Mystical Christ.

Desire is our most creative force and we should use our desire to prepare our hearts for Eucharistic reception. My prayer of desire is: “Jesus, anoint us for greater love and unity. Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” Receiving from the cup, I embrace the cup with two hands—an act of desire.

Another way of awakening our hearts to surrender to the Mystical Christ is to use our imagination. Simply imagine the Eucharistic Minister saying as the Eucharist is offered: “Consume and be consumed. Be anointed and anoint others.” Repeat the words to yourself. With the Spirit’s inspiration, these words can stir our desire for surrender into union with the Mystical Christ and our sisters and brothers.

Paradox of Surrender. We should not be surprised by the paradox that exists at the heart of our Eucharistic Celebrations. By radically surrendering to the Crucified Jesus and to the Mystical Christ at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are brought into Mystical Union. It is in Mystical Union that we are transformed and empowered.

Surrender is empowerment! The article, All Are Anointed, emphasized that at our Eucharistic Celebrations we are anointed in two ways. First, for our personal transformation that is necessary if we are to bring about the Beloved Community. Second, for empowering us to empower others to greater love, hope and faith.

Radical surrender to the Crucified Jesus unleashes the power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Radical surrender at our Eucharistic reception to the Mystical Christ, who includes all our sisters and brothers, brings us to the summit and fulfillment of our Eucharistic experience!

Finally, appreciation for Eucharist evolves, as our spiritual lives evolve. Jesus did not give us a manual to teach us the significance of his Love Meal. He did give us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, who guides us as individuals to embrace this Love Encounter in our personal way. The Spirit inspires us through our hearts that have experienced surrender into union in our daily lives. We need awareness, desire and discernment to respond. Jesus is counting on the Spirit and our hearts to bring about the Beloved Community through celebrating his Love Meal.

All Are Annointed

In the Old Testament, we read of prophets singling out individuals like David and anointing them—empowering them to perform their Divine Mission. I believe that Jesus revolutionized the way God empowers individuals, just as he revolutionized public worship. And there is a connection between the two that has been overlooked.

During Jesus’ time, the Paschal Lamb could only be slain in public worship in the Temple at Jerusalem. Jesus revolutionized public worship by creating a celebration in a Eucharistic Community, centered on a Love Meal, wherever Jesus’ followers come together. Likewise, Jesus revolutionized anointing of individuals by empowering ALL of his followers, and not through the medium of prophets, but directly through the Holy Spirit. Where? At the celebrations of Jesus’ Love Meal.

Unfortunately, the significance of Jesus’ Love Meal has largely been ignored. Despite the fact that the Vatican ll Council declared the Eucharist to be the “source and summit of Christian life.” The reality of our Eucharistic Celebrations is that we are all invited to be anointed. The empowerment is ours for the asking. No credentials required. No skills needed. Just heartfelt desire and awareness of the powers at work. The invitation is offered at Jesus’ Love Meal in at least two ways:

  • Anointing for personal transformation to help bring about the Beloved Community; and
  • Anointing for us to empower others to greater love, hope and faith.

Anointed for Transformation. Through the gift of his Love Meal, Jesus became the ultimate and eternal source for bringing us to wholeness and holiness. It is at the Consecration of the bread and wine that what are symbols of our lives become our consecrated selves along with Jesus. We are made sacred for the sacrifice!

Not in one shot. That is what life is all about. It is a process. Our personal transformation is the work of the Spirit within us. Our work is to surrender to union with the Spirit, to yield to transformation by the Spirit—especially during our Eucharistic Celebrations. Focusing on one area of our personal woundedness makes the transformation process more real to us.

Personal transformation is a process that requires our ardent desire, a desire that we are not even capable of awakening. During our Eucharistic Celebrations we need to pray that the Spirit will open up our hearts to desire personal transformation.

Besides desire, our personal transformation process requires our deep awareness of what is taking place. At our Eucharistic Celebrations we celebrate Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We must enter deeply, if only briefly, into these historical events with all our hearts and imaginations.

Remembrance of Jesus’ demonstrated love becomes the channel of love that unites us with the Trinity of Love. The psychic fire of this Trinitarian Love is the agent of change, but it requires the environment of a committed union to blaze up. Our immersion in this Mystical Union creates the Divine crucible of love. Our hunger to be plunged into this Divine crucible starts the process of our transformation.

Anointed for Empowerment. Elsewhere we have written that the Eucharist offers us a Life Vision. A vision that prompts us to identify with Jesus who led a life of empowering others and bringing others into deeper union with God, themselves, others, life, reality.  But the Eucharist is more than a Life Vision. Reception of Eucharist is an anointing, an empowerment to live Jesus’ Life Vision.

When we eat the bread and drink the wine of Eucharist, we receive Jesus and our sisters and brothers, and they receive  us. Through this Mystical Union we are anointed to become empowerers of each other. Again, our immersion in this Mystical Union is the environment for empowerment. Of course, this empowerment process depends on our awareness of and desire for what is taking place. During Eucharistic Celebrations, pray for this anointing to become channels of love, hope and faith to our sisters and brothers to awaken their love, hope and faith.

Choose Anointing. We are all anointed at our Eucharistic Celebrations. We are all chosen if we so choose. Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM states that it is the “very experience of being chosen that somehow empowers us…. To allow yourself to be chosen is to be chosen. God chooses and then uses whom he has chosen, and their useability comes from their willingness to allow themselves to be chosen in the first place.” Choose to be anointed at Eucharistic Celebrations for personal transformation and for the capacity to empower others!

Agape: Love Meal

 

Prayer for Spiritual Communion

Jesus, invite me to your Love Meal

At this Eucharistic Celebration in my heart.

Lead me to spiritual communion with you

And with my sisters and brothers.

Help me to put myself at your disposal

To awaken my heart for union.

 

Jesus, let me join you at the Last Supper.

There you prepared your heart for self-sacrifice

By washing the feet of your disciples

And drying them with a towel at your waist.

Would that I could wash their feet

To arouse my heart for self-sacrifice.

 

Jesus, I offer you my food and drink,

This bread and wine, symbol of my life.

Symbol of my desire to join you in sacrifice.

Symbol of my desire to enter into communion

With the Trinity of Love through your crucifixion,

Creating the fiery crucible of Divine Love.

 

Jesus, they crowned your head with thorns.

They beat your body with iron-studded

Whips to tear your flesh. They pounded nails

Through your hands to a wooden cross.

They nailed your feet to its vertical post.

They pierced your side with a lance.

 

Jesus, it is not your wounds that I love.

It is your love that I love.

It is your desire that I love—to bring me

Into communion with the Trinity of Love.

It is your eros that I love—to unite me

With you in one Mystical Body.

 

Jesus, make me one with you in sacrifice.

With your presence and love, consecrate

My gifts of bread and wine, my very self.

Fire up your crucible of Divine Love

With Calvary’s fire. Plunge me in and forge

And seal me in spiritual communion.

 

Jesus, co-mingle me with yourself

And my sisters and brothers in the bread

Of the hosts and in the wine of the chalice.

Anoint me for greater love and unity.

Make me Eucharist for sisters and brothers

To receive me as bread and wine.

 

Jesus, bring me into spiritual communion

With you and my sisters and brothers.

In your crucible of love, melt down

My intolerance of others’differences with me

And from me. Let my spiritual communion

Help create the Beloved Community!

Amen.

Solidarity through Incarnation

Solidarity through the ongoing Incarnation of the Risen Christ is not just our personal union with the living Christ. It is a solidarity with all the members of the Body of Christ. It is a solidarity that exists in God’s plan for us from all eternity and that can be witnessed in the supreme spiritual exercise of the Mass. For the Mass should be seen as a work in progress of the Risen Christ bringing about solidarity among all the members of His Body. Indeed, Mass is a ritual of love, remembering Jesus’ great love for us and intended to transform us into lovers of one another.

Eucharistic Solidarity. In Making the Eucharist Matter, Fr. Frank Andersen, M.S.C. states that the words that the priest speaks over the bread and wine are spoken for us: “In the Eucharist it is our body that is given, our blood that will be poured out. Jesus made his offering once and for all. In his memory we offer ourselves as we become part of what he did and who he is…..Our privilege is to now make our own offering, made in the same spirit, the same generosity, using the very same words over the very same symbols of bread and wine.” Not only are we making an act of faith in the Divine Presence, we are also making an act of love to others.

Along with Christ and the celebrating priest (in a special way), we offer ourselves at the consecration to God. Also, we are offering all the members of the Risen Christ in a grand solidarity with others. For we cannot isolate the members of Christ’s Body. Further, in receiving the Risen Christ, we are receiving others and they are receiving us because we and others are members of the Body of Christ. That is truly communion, truly solidarity with our sisters and brothers.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., preacher in the papal household, reveals his awakening to the meaning of the Mass: “Up to a certain time I used to live the moment of consecration at Mass by closing my eyes, bowing my head and trying to estrange myself from everything around me, and to identify myself with Jesus who uttered these words at the cenacle. Then, one day, it struck me that the Jesus of the cenacle no longer exists! The risen Jesus exists now….And this Jesus is the ‘total Christ,’ head and body inseparately united. So, if it is this total Christ who says the words of consecration, I, too, say them with him.” No longer does he close his eyes, he says, but looks at the sisters and brothers whom he will serve.

We all are addressing our brothers and sisters with the words, “Take, eat, this is my body; take, drink.” At the consecration we all are sacrificing our body and blood, offering our time, energy, ability, resources, our very life to others. Our solidarity with others has taken us into deeper waters. We all are offering ourselves at the Eucharist to others. That is why the Mass is a ritual of love.

Spiritual Solidarity. While we are gifting ourselves to others in the sacrifice of the Mass, the Risen Christ is gifting us with His Spirit to complete the work of our transfor-mation. The Spirit takes the Liturgy of the Word presented at the Mass’ beginning and pervading the entire Mass, and continues the call to conversion after we have left Mass. If the words of scripture and the sermon are not echoing in our heads and hearts, we are only attending a ritual, and certainly not a ritual of love.

We are all divine creations. That is why there is so much diversity among us. Diversity is God’s creativity. However, we find it difficult to tolerate diversity because each of us thwarts God’s plan for us. Only when we allow the Spirit to transform the canvas of our divine creation into the masterpiece that God desires for us will there be solidarity among the members of the Body of Christ. Let us cooperate with the creative Spirit!

Crucible of Love

At our Eucharistic Celebrations, Jesus dances us into Mystical Union—with himself and with our sisters and our brothers. When we receive Eucharist, we not only receive Jesus but each other. We all become the bread and wine. We all become the Love Meal. We all become the Body of Christ. We all are united in Mystical Union.

In fact, Mystical Union is the goal of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Let me repeat: Mystical Unionis the goal. BUT NOT THE END. While union is a transcending, joyful experience, our Mystical Union is not just a feel-good experience. MysticalUnion is about our personal transformation. MysticalUnion is immersion in the crucible of Jesus’ love. There we are gradually transformed. Jesus’ divine plan is to transform our wounded humanity into the Beloved Community through Mystical Union.

Environment for Fire. Why a crucible of love? A crucible is a melting pot that refines metals at high temperatures. Love’s psychic fire is the agent of change but it requires the environment of a committed union to blaze up. Committed unions are the crucibles of love. Given that environment, love melts down our intolerance of others’ differences from us and with us. It diminishes our alienation from others, our indifference to others, our fear of others, and all that separates us from others.

Ideally, all unions, all deep relationships, human and divine, are crucibles of love where we as persons are transformed. Marital unions are crucibles of love. For those not committed to a personal relationship, the spiritual life is the crucible of love. Mystical Unions through our Eucharistic Celebrations are crucibles of love. When the pathological enters our union, marital unions become contests for control. Spiritual lives become arid, rigid adherence to religious practices. Eucharistic Celebrations become mere attendance at church services.

The transforming power of our unions should not surprise us. Fr. Teihard de Chardin states, that the more one is in union with another, the more one becomes one’s self, because it is the self that is the very basis of union. What is the significance of this psychological reality?

Our capacity to love, usually locked up within our hearts, is unleashed through our unions. It is fear that paralyzes our power to love. We only feel free to become fully ourselves in the environment of our love relationships. Of course, we cannot demand or manipulate our significant other to change. We can only be environment for growth.

Jesus knew the human heart. He knew that we human beings must evolve from our False Self to our True Self. That’s why he created the Love Meal to bring us into Mystical Union with himself and our sisters and brothers. To be free to love! To be open to creating the Beloved Community, the ultimate witness of Jesus’ authenticity and power.

Divine Fire. The connection between love and transformation has been missed for far too long. This disconnect may well account for our impoverished appreciation of love. Love has been romanticized, sentimentalized, sensationalized, minimized, commercialized. But love is the psychic fire that transforms our lives.

Look at what Holy Scripture reveals about love. In the Song of Songs, we read: “The flash of love is the flash of fire. Its flame is the flame of Yahweh himself.” In 1 John 4:16 we are told: “God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them.” Love is fire! Love is divine. In our Mystical Unions through Eucharistic Celebrations we experience that divine fire. No wonder that Fr. Chardin states: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Look how human experience confirms Scripture’s revelation. Two thousand years ago, the Roman historian, Plutarch, in “Dialogues of Love” recognized the power of love to bring about personal transformation in marital union:  “Physical pleasure with a spouse is the seed of friendship and the participation in great mysteries. Though the physical pleasure is brief, from it grows day by day respect and grace, affection and faithfulness.” Unions are an immersion in the crucible of love that transforms us.

Fire of Jesus’ Love.  With these reflections in mind, let us focus on how Jesus’ crucible of love is formed during our Eucharistic Celebrations. It begins with a deep encounter with Jesus. And nothing connects us more intensely with Jesus than prayerful, though brief, reflection on his passion and death.

By so doing, we unleash within ourselves the dynamic process of the Risen Christ, who dwells within us, gifting us with his Spirit who pours the love of God into our hearts.  At Mass, let us awaken our hearts for our Crucified Lover during the offering of our gifts, bread and wine, symbols of our lives, symbols of our desire to be sacrificed with him.

Nor should we dwell solely on Jesus’ physical sufferings. Let us ask ourselves the same question thatSt. Augustine raised: “What is the beauty we see in Christ?….The Crucified limbs? The pierced side? Or the love? When we hear that he suffered for us, what do we love? The love is loved.” We love his desire to lift us all up. We love his eros to be one with us. By loving Jesus back, we enter into union with Jesus. The crucible of Jesus’ love is formed in that love relationship.

Fire of Consecration. At the Consecration, we plunge deeper into the crucible of Jesus’ love. We pray: “Jesus, make us one with you in sacrifice. With your presence and love, consecrate our gifts of bread and wine, our very selves.” Jesus uses our gifts to unite himself with us. What was symbol becomes reality. What was ordinary bread and wine becomes Jesus’ dwelling place. And he takes us along with him for the sacrifice. We are consecrated with him.

In the Consecration process, the fire of Calvary becomes the fire on our altar.  The fire of Jesus’ love is expressed for us once again. That is the fire ablaze in the crucible of Jesus’ love. Here Jesus fires us up, forges us and seals us into union with himself and with our sisters and brothers. Mystical Union has begun!

Fire of Eucharist. When we receive Eucharist, we reach the climax of Jesus dancing us into Mystical Union. We plunge still deeper into the crucible of Jesus’ love. As we approach the altar to receive, we pray: “Jesus, anoint us for greater love and unity. Make us Eucharist for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine.” It is the time for the fire of Mystical Union to transform us. What can we do to help the process?

First, realize that when we receive Eucharist, we enter into a great mystery. The Spirit is at work within us. We enter into sacred time. Value this time!

Second, be aware that personal transformation is a difficult task. Our feelings of otherness from others alienates us from others. We shield ourselves from others with our desire for privacy. We project our individuality to protect us from others. Yet Jesus is calling us to create the Beloved Community.

So, pray intensely that the fire of Mystical Union will transform us from our intolerance of others and whatever separates us from others, that the Spirit will deepen our solidarity with the Beloved Community, and that the Spirit will move us beyond our local community to an awareness of our sisters and brothers all over the globe.

Third, cooperate with the Spirit at work within us. We must empty ourselves psychologically to allow room for the Spirit. How? By surrendering ourselves to the Spirit, by gifting ourselves to the Spirit, by putting ourselves at the disposal of the Spirit, by yielding ourselves to the Spirit. Using words like these awakens our hearts to be open to the work of the Spirit in our transformation.

Lastly, let us take the time to empty ourselves of all thoughts and words. Let us simply arouse our desire for the Spirit to anoint us for greater love and unity. The Spirit knows what we need to be transformed.

Conclusion. Some time ago, acting as Eucharistic Minister I served the chalice. For a moment I gazed intensely into the chalice, watching the wine swirl in the golden cup. I experienced the Spirit commingling me with Jesus and my sisters and brothers. I experienced Mystical Union but I stopped there. Now I have come to see the chalice symbolizing the crucible of Jesus’ love. Mystical Union is immersion in the crucible of Jesus’ love. Mystical Union is all about personal transformation!

Fr. Chardin writes: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” Let me paraphrase his statement: “Man will have discovered that love is divine fire.”  Our unions, human and divine, are crucibles of divine fire!

(See Hymn, Dance of the Mass, which focuses on Jesus’ Love Meal under Music on the masthead.)

 

New Vision of Eucharist

The Eucharist extends beyond all boundaries. Beyond ritual. Beyond liturgy. Beyond religious practice. Beyond any one theology or any one spirituality. The Eucharist is the power source of our growth in holiness. The power source of our capacity to love. The power source for creating the Beloved Community. The power source that is at the core of all spiritualities, because it is the ultimate expression of union—and that is what spirituality is all about.

Eucharist as Revolution. The first insight we need to grasp is that Jesus did something revolutionary when he instituted a Love Meal at the center of public worship. For a thousand years, as long as the Temple in Jerusalem existed, priests and Levites in private Temple quarters carried out a bloody sacrifice of animals for public worship. It was big business for the transportation and “hotel” industries, but especially for the business of the Temple.

The Pascal lamb could only be slain in the Temple at Jerusalem. The religiously observant in Rome, in Alexandria,Egypt, in Galilee, wherever there was a Jewish community, had to come to Jerusalem for public worship. At one Passover, 256,500 lambs were slain, with an estimated two and a half million persons in attendance, according to H.V. Morton’s book, In the Footsteps of the Master.

Jesus changed all that. He changed totally religion, spirituality and public worship. He transformed public worship from a ritual performed exclusively by priests and levites, centered on a bloody sacrifice of animals and exclusively in the Temple at Jerusalem, to what? A celebration in a Eucharistic Community, centered on a Love Meal, wherever Jesus’ followers come together. That was revolutionary!

With that one act of instituting a Love Meal at the center of public worship, Jesus  transformed our entire idea of God. From a Divine Being who primarily wants worship to a Being who primarily wants communion with and relationship with all his creatures and creation. As the Eucharistic Power Source, Jesus became the ultimate and eternal source of holiness and union for all humanity. God’s glory became a people fully alive through Jesus and united in him. God’s glory became the Beloved Community. Jesus changed our whole concept of religion!

Jesus gave us a clue as to what was coming when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. She said: “My Samaritan ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but you Jews say thatJerusalemis the place where we should worship God.” Jesus replied: “Believe me, woman, the time will come when people will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem….when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as He really is.” Jesus had revolution in mind!

Eucharist as Jesus’ End Plan. Jesus made our Eucharistic Celebrations the medium for fulfilling his End Plan of creating Christian community, the Beloved Community. Jesus had given us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loves us. Reason tells us that Jesus would not have given us a new commandment without giving us the means for living it. Our Eucharistic Celebrations are the medium for creating the Beloved Community—Jesus’goal.

In his book, The Spirituality of Communion, a study of John’s Gospel and First Letter, biblical scholar Gerard Rosse throws more light on Jesus’ End Plan: “In their mutual love the disciples (the Beloved Community) make visible the divine reality within which they live, and they reveal the divine Love to the world to which they are sent. By living in fraternal love, which is the sign of unity, the community continues the work of Jesus in the world of human beings. By its mutual love the united community continues down the centuries the revelatory role that had first been that of Jesus. This kind of interpersonal relationship can arouse faith and bring the world to see in the proclamation of Jesus his profound truth as the one sent by God and therefore his oneness with the Father, which reveals God’s love for humanity, a love made present in the community of believers.”

We carry on the work of evangelization by proclaiming the Good News to others. But more basic than that is this: we evangelize the world by our very being—our being the Beloved Community. Creation of the Beloved Community is the ultimate witness to the presence and power of Jesus 2,000 years ago and today.

In the final analysis, only Divine Intelligence could have conceived of a Love Meal to create a Beloved Community as the medium for accomplishing Jesus’ mission. And only Divine Power can carry out this Divine Plan.

Eucharist as Beloved Community.  Gerard Rosse elaborates on the nature of the Beloved Community: “John presents the necessity of loving our sisters and our brothers not only as a response to the commandment of God but also as a natural necessity, since love comes from God and has its roots in God….The divine love that is given to us is the hidden spring that takes hold of the entire person and places it in a state of love, thus defining the believer as ‘one who loves.’”

Jesus based his End Plan on this spiritual reality. Our Eucharistic Celebrations flow from that same hidden spring that unites us with God and the Beloved Community.

Eucharist as Love Dance. Jesus is the center and power source of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Jesus is the center and power source of our Love Meal celebrated in the context of the liturgy of the Mass. Today we must be deeply aware that the Last Supper, initiated in time 2,000 years ago, lasts and lasts, goes on and on at every Mass—with Jesus still the celebrant. It is not a single event, but an ongoing process. As celebrant, Jesus actualizes the actions of the priest who is the presider—one who stands in for Jesus. In fact, Jesus is the leader of the love dance at our Eucharistic Celebrations!

Why a “love dance”? Dance symbolizes intimate union between a man and a woman, a way of acting out ritually their desire for union. Jesus’ movements, centered on a Love Meal, aim at bringing about a Mystical Union of sisters and brothers to create the Beloved Community. Catch the love force in Jesus’ movements:

  1. Jesus invites us to join him in offering ourselves when the priest offers our food and drink, bread and wine. Our bread and wine are symbols of our life. We are offering our lives along with Jesus.
  2. Jesus consecrates us for sacrifice with him by uniting our sacrifice with his sacrifice when the priest consecrates our bread and wine. Note: the Jesus at the Love Meal is no longer the historical Jesus, but the Risen Jesus who includes all of us. We, together with Jesus, are being sacrificed.
  3. Jesus anoints us, empowers us, for love and unity by making us Eucharist with him for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine. This love dance culminates in our Mystical Union with Jesus and our sisters and brothers. The Beloved Community is in the process of becoming! We are on our way to accomplishing Jesus’ End Plan.

However, we have to be aware of the dynamics of Jesus’ movements. Why have we been so unaware of Jesus’ love dance in our Eucharistic Celebrations? Jesus takes us through just three movements. But the three movements are separated in the course of the liturgy to such an extent that we miss the connection between them. They appear to be separate, isolated, unrelated events in the liturgy.

To see their connection, it would be helpful to mentally condense all that takes place during the liturgy, eliminating all but the core movements as described above. The core movements comprise Jesus’ love dance intended to create the Beloved Community!

Think of a couple ritually acting out their desire for intimate union through dance. But other partners keep cutting in and destroying the experience they wish to create. Using our analogy, we see all the prayers that intervene between the core movements of Jesus as so many intruders into Jesus’ love dance—interfering with our experience.

Eucharist as Communal Act of Love. The disconnect between the three core movements of our Love Meal hinders us spiritually and emotionally from entering deeply into our Eucharistic Celebration. As a result, we tend to simply attend a church service, rather than engage in a Communal Act of Love. Only by bringing to bear a heightened spirituality to our Love Meal can we engage in a Communal Act of Love.

As in any love relationship, we move through different phases of desire to bring us into communion with Jesus and our sisters and brothers:

  1. Spiritual Communion—Right from the beginning of Mass, we awaken our desire for communion with Jesus, and with our sisters and brothers. With Jesus, because he is the medium of communion with God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Beloved Community. With our sisters and brothers, because we want to bring about Jesus’ End Plan of the Beloved Community.
  2. Ritual Communion—When we join Jesus in the core movements of the Love Meal, we act out our desire for communion with Jesus and our community. Jesus inviting us to offer ourselves through our bread and wine. Jesus consecrating us for sacrifice. Jesus empowering us, anointing us for greater love and unity.
  3. Mystical Communion—When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus anoints us, empowers us, for love and unity by making us Eucharist with him for sisters and brothers to receive one another as bread and wine. The Ritual Communion phase has culminated in Mystical Communion with Jesus, God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Beloved Community. Our desire for union has been fulfilled!
  4. Actual Communion—During and after Mass, we carry out our desire for   communion with Jesus and others. Our Kiss of Peace is our first demonstration.

Eucharist as Calvary’s Fire. Another striking disconnect is between Calvary and Jesus’ daily sacrifice at Mass. Jesus saved us once and for all times on Calvary. What then is Jesus’ sacrifice at daily Mass? It is important to recall at the Consecration that Jesus fires us up with the same infinite love he expressed on Calvary and forges us and seals us in Mystical Union. His sacrifice empowers us to grow in love and desire for unity that we might enter into communion with one another to create the Beloved Community. It is only when we understand Jesus’ End Plan that we see this connection between Calvary and our Eucharistic Celebrations.

When we consider humanity’s cruelty to one another—Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, wars, we are reminded of an episode in the Gospels. Jesus’ disciples could not heal a person. So they ask Jesus why they couldn’t heal. Jesus replies that that some healings take prayer and fasting. Applying that wisdom to Jesus’ daily sacrifice at Mass, we can say that it takes that kind of divine power to heal the woundedness of humanity to bring about the Beloved Community.

Eucharist as Our Sacrifice. We have emphasized that we, along with Jesus, are being sacrificed. But what is our sacrifice? Personal transformation! Transformation from negative attitudes and behaviors. Transformation into becoming agents of the Spirit, beauty and new life for others as Jesus was. Without a desire for personal transformation, we will not possess the right intentionality to do the hard work to create the Beloved Community. The two are intimately connected.

Very simply, our sacrifice is to free ourselves of whatever blocks us from bringing about the Beloved Community. My personal block is intolerance of others who differ with me and are different from me. This negative attitude gets in the way of creating the Beloved Community. But I am working on it.

Eucharist as Living Spirituality. The power of the Eucharist extends beyond our reception atMass. It does not self-destruct with time. Its power to bring us into mystical union with God the Father, with Jesus, with the Spirit, and with the Beloved Community continues based on one condition. We must connect with our Eucharistic Moment—the time of our reception—with faith and love. This practice transforms our reception of the Eucharist at Mass from being an isolated event into becoming a Love Force that anoints us for love and unity with Jesus and the Beloved Community—during our entire day:

  • By practicing Spiritual Communion during our day. For a brief period of time, we can recall our Eucharistic experience at Mass and concentrate on growing our desire for communion. With Jesus, who anoints us for love and unity. With the Father, whom Jesus reveals to us as the source of infinite love. With the Spirit, who kindles in our hearts the fire of love and desire.  And with the Beloved Community, from whom Jesus is inseparable.
  • By recalling our Eucharistic Moment to commune with God in creation.
  • By making every meal a Eucharistic meal, an exercise in growing our desire for communion with God and our loved ones.
  • By bringing our Eucharistic Moment into our prayer life.

Eucharist as Life Vision. As his last gift to us, Jesus chose to become Eucharist which we celebrate during the Love Meal at Mass. Jesus gave us the gift that empowers us to live lives of love and unity with others. This is what Eucharist is all about—empowerment for love and union. But note: in giving us the Eucharist, Jesus gave us a new way to live our lives.

Jesus presents us with a whole new life vision. A life vision based on us being Eucharist, not just at the time of receiving Communion, but in the way we live our relationships with others. Just as Jesus led a life of empowering others during his life on earth and continues now in our Eucharistic Celebrations, we are called to empower others and bring others into deeper union with God, themselves, others, life, reality. We must become Eucharist to others, empowerers of others. What a rich Life Vision!

Conclusion. A new vision of the Eucharist is needed. Seeing it as a love dance led by Jesus. Seeing it as a Communal Act of Love. Seeing it as the core spirituality that fills our day. Seeing it as a Life Vision for relating to others. This new vision of the Eucharist will empower us to bring about Jesus’ End Plan for the Beloved Community—the ultimate witness to his authenticity.

(See Hymn, Dance of the Mass, which focuses on Jesus’ Love Meal under Music on the masthead.)

Be Eucharist

We have stressed that Jesus gave us Eucharist, his Love Meal, as the medium for creating Christian Community, the Beloved Community. Now, I am suggesting that Jesus offers us the Eucharist as a life vision, a way to live our lives. In fact, to be truly a Christian, we must become Eucharist, empowerers of others.

Eucharistic Power Source. As his last gift to us, Jesus chose to become Eucharist which we celebrate during the Love Meal that is the Mass. Jesus chose to be the gift that empowers us to live lives of love and to be united with our sisters and brothers in the Beloved Community. That is what Eucharist is all about—empowerment and union. Really empowerment for union. That is the goal of attending Mass. To encounter the source of Divine Love and become transformed by that power for greater union with Our Father, the Risen Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Beloved Community.

Jesus was Eucharist long before he was ever Eucharist sacramentally. In his divine wisdom, he found a way to perpetuate his earthly life of empowering others for deeper life and union. Through the gift of his Love Meal, Jesus became the ultimate and eternal source for bringing us to wholeness and holiness. Through the dance of the Mass, Jesus leads us to offer ourselves for the Beloved Community, to be consecrated with him for sacrifice, and finally to join him in becoming Eucharist for our sisters and brothers, receiving one another as bread and wine. Truly an empowering Love Meal!

Eucharistic Life Vision. In addition to being the source of empowerment, Jesus in the Eucharist presents us with a whole new life vision. A life vision based on us being Eucharist, not just at the time of receiving Communion, but in the way we live our relationships with others. Just as Jesus led a life of empowering others during his life on earth and now in our Eucharistic Celebrations, we are called to empower others and bring others into deeper union with God, themselves, others, life, reality.

There is a scene in the Gospels where a woman, in the days just prior to Jesus’ death, anoints his feet with a costly perfume. The bystanders object to her lavish action, but Jesus says: “She has just anointed me for my impending death.” In The Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser interprets Jesus’ words: “Because of this it will be easier to not to give in to bitterness, easier to die. Knowing that I am so loved it will be easier to leave this world without anger in my heart.” I would add: This woman was Eucharist to Jesus, in the sense of her being empowerment to him. That is the life vision that Jesus as Eucharist is calling us to live.

Eucharistic Commitment. Inspired by Fr. Rolheiser, on our 53rd wedding anniversary, I wrote my wife a note in which I quoted his comments on the above scripture passage. I added: “I want to say to you that your deep love for me has anointed me for living a fuller and richer life, and prepares me for meeting our Infinite Lover. Because you have taught me that love exists, I can have love, hope and faith.”

The Church has not provided married couples with a life vision, a model of holiness, for their marriages. But I believe that Jesus has done so in his gift of Eucharist. Marriage might even be called the State ofEucharist. Two people committed to be empowerers of each other for growth in love and union, and extending their Eucharistic experience to others.

Of course, there is a danger in calling marriage the “State of Eucharist,” just as it is a danger in calling religious life the State of Perfection. For all are called to holiness. And all are called to be Eucharist to others, to be the empowerers of others. Jesus gave us this life vision by the example of his life and by his last gift of Eucharist to us.

Eucharistic Surprises. My insight that Jesus has given us a life vision in the Eucharist might have remained just a notion. But encounters with people who have surprisingly been Eucharist to me have confirmed this insight. Let me give you two examples.

There is Tonya from Kosovo who sits by herself on the other side of the main aisle at our church for Mass. She does not speak English. I took the risk of going over to her and saying to her “Pace” at the Kiss of Peace. She understood it. Now she looks for my greeting at Mass, shakes my hand with great gusto and radiates deep warmth. She is Eucharist to me. She empowers me to receive Eucharist with an awakened heart!

Due to doctor appointments, my wife and I were absent one week from daily Mass. Before Mass began, Beth greeted us with, “Where have you been?” and embraced us warmly. Now being convinced that Jesus gave us a Love Meal in the Mass, I had wanted to greet the congregation in that spirit when I did the readings. But fear held me back. After that embrace, I mounted the pulpit and looked directly at the congregation and said: “My Beloved Community. My sisters and my brothers. The reading is from…” I have continued this practice. Beth was Eucharist to me. She empowered me.

Eucharistic Living. Living the Eucharistic Life Vision, being empowerers of others, anointing them for love and unity, is a necessity if we are to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation. In the Holy Longing, Fr. Rolheiser explains that Jesus was made flesh at his Incarnation and continues to dwell among us, and in some mysterious way he has gathered us into his ongoing Incarnation as the Body of Christ. And now acts through us!

Further, Jesus has given us not only his presence, but his powers to carry on his ongoing Incarnation and mission. We can forgive, we can heal, we can bind others to Christ through our love. Being the Christ that we are already in some mysterious way is our great challenge. Eucharist is both our power source and our life vision. Unless we grow into a Eucharistic Life Vision, we will not take possession of Jesus’ powers. To be truly a Christian, we must become Eucharist, empowerers of others.

 (See Hymn, Dance of the Mass, which focuses on Jesus’ Love Meal under Music on the masthead.)

 

End Plan

We commonly hear that the Eucharistic Meal, the Love Meal, is a memorial of Jesus and all that he has done for us. True, that is how the Eucharistic Meal began. After Jesus’ death, it became a way for his apostles and disciples to remember Jesus. That concept has prevailed. However, I believe that Jesus had a greater plan for the Eucharistic Meal that he instituted at the Last Supper.

The term “memorial” looks back at what Jesus did. It does not look forward to Jesus’ goal of creating community, the Beloved Community. The term does not highlight the notion of Jesus empowering us to become community, anointing us to become the Beloved Community, through our Eucharistic celebration.

God’s Plan. Permit me a moment of fanciful imagination. The scene is a brainstorming session among the Persons of the Trinity. It takes place before Jesus’ Incarnation.

Christ begins the discussion: “I understand that our plan for salvation calls for me to be incarnated, taking the form of a human being.”

“That’s right,” the Father replies. “You will enter into human history to demonstrate that Infinite Love exists at the heart of reality and that there is hope for all humanity.”

Christ continues, “I’ll spend some 30 years on earth teaching people how to live their lives and live a relationship of love with one another.”

The Spirit notes, “After you physically leave earth, I will be your continuous presence in the world and remind your followers of all that you have taught them. I will be enlightenment and inspiration for all.”

“But what is the end plan?” Christ asks. “I know that I will suffer a shameful death and rise in glory on the third day. But does the divine plan end there?” After a moment of reflection, Christ answers his own question:

“I will become the ultimate and eternal source of consecration, holiness and anointing for all humanity. Our glory will be all our people fully alive through me and united in me. Our glory will be the Beloved Community.”

On that note, the planning session ends.

Plan Accomplished. Although the above divine dialogue is a flight of fantasy about a great mystery, it helps us to envision the divine plan for salvation. Namely, that it would redefine God’s relationship with us and what would bring the fullest glory to God. There are hints of that in the Old Testament. God tells his people that he does not want their bloody sacrifices of animals to do him homage. Instead, God wants their hearts.

At the Last Supper, Jesus accomplished this new direction in God’s relationship with us through the institution of the Eucharistic Meal, the heart of the Mass. He threw out a 1,000-year-old tradition of animal sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem conducted by priests and levites. He replaced it with the Love Meal for a Eucharistic community to create the Beloved Community.

This Love Meal celebrated at Mass is more than a ritual. Through it, Jesus perpetuates his presence in the Eucharistic Community and perpetuates his empowerment of the Eucharistic Community to become the Beloved Community. It is not just an everlasting re-presentation of Jesus’ final hours, bringing Jesus’ sacrifice forever into the present moment at Mass. The Love Meal is Jesus’ end plan for which everything else preceded  it—Jesus becoming the ultimate and eternal source of consecration, holiness and anointing of the Eucharistic Community to become the Beloved Community.

To appreciate the Eucharistic Meal fully, we must see it as a part of the Paschal Mysteries which include Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. We will substitute the term “Jesus Process” for Paschal Mysteries because the Risen Christ transformed these individual historical events into a process. The term, the “Jesus Process,” captures that understanding.

What is the significance of the Jesus Process for us? The Risen Christ has preserved the historical Jesus’ life experiences, and has created through them a power source at the center of our personhood. It is from this inner power source that the Risen Christ gifts us with the Spirit’s gifts. The Jesus Process is at the heart of the spiritual life.

Through the Jesus Process, the Risen Christ pours out the Spirit’s gifts for both our individual quest for spiritual growth and for the creation of Christian Community. In past articles on the Jesus Process, we have focused on its role in our individual quest. Of course, it is also the power source for the creation of Christian community. For wherever there are two or three gathered in Jesus’ name, he is present among them. Jesus’ presence in community means empowerment to grow our souls through one another with the help of the Spirit. How much more so is this true of Jesus at the Love Meal at Mass!

Plan Adrift. The history of the Eucharistic celebration reveals how we have drifted away from Jesus’ goal for creating the Beloved Community through the Eucharist. Right from the onset of Christianity, opposing views of the Eucharist took shape. One, emphasizing Jesus’ presence in the sacred elements; and the other, Jesus’ presence in community. By the Middle Ages, “the focus moved to perceiving Christ’s presence solely in the consecrated elements, and away from Christ’s presence ‘among us,’” according to Dr. Richard W. Scaine’s article entitled “The Eucharist in an Evolutionary Perspective.”

Michael Whelan in a Cross Currents article expressed it this way: “The Eucharistic host became an object of reverence, rather than the center of a communal performance. The emphasis was increasingly placed upon the miracle of transubstantiation in the priest’s blessing of the bread and wine, rather than the transformation of the community itself in its participation in the Eucharist.” Clearly, we have drifted from Jesus’ plan.

Plan Ahead. How do we restore the Eucharistic Celebration at Mass to Jesus’ intentions? Reform begins with each one of us. The Beloved Community cannot be mandated. We need a grassroots effort. We must transform our vision of the Eucharistic Meal, the Love Meal. We must refocus our minds and hearts, not on the sacred elements in themselves, but on what Jesus wants to accomplish through the Eucharistic Meal—the creation of the Beloved Community.

We must bring to bear our deepest spirituality to transform the ritual of the Mass into a deep encounter with Jesus who consecrates our offerings of bread and wine with his presence and who makes Eucharist of us all with him in this Love Meal. Jesus in the Eucharist consecrates us for union and anoints us, gives us his Spirit of Love, to unite us for life in the Beloved Community.

Finally, Jesus’ end plan will bring about God’s ultimate glory—all people (no exceptions) fully alive through Jesus and united in Jesus. This means that we must gain a global awareness of all our sisters and brothers, especially those suffering poverty, hunger and tyranny. The energy for this kind of global love will come from celebrating the Love Meal at Mass.

(See Hymn, Dance of the Mass, which focuses on Jesus’ Love Meal under Music on the masthead.)