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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.)