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Sunday, March 11, 2012


by Lawrence Fox

Consider the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. The recorded events are a rich foundation for understanding: the mystery into the Blessed Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Communion of the Saints, the Exodus of the New Testament Church out of the Earthly Jerusalem, and the veracity of the Resurrection events (since the apostles were not anticipating nor did they understand the resurrection of Jesus prior to the Sunday event as evidenced by their confused response to his command to tell no one until after His Resurrection from the Dead. They wondered what he meant by, “Tell no one until after I have risen from the dead.”)

And yet the reading last Sunday, which drew my attention, was the responsorial psalm 115 (116) “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.”

I imagine Jesus reciting these words with his disciples on Holy Thursday. Consider the various messianic statements: Jesus’ sacrifice to the Father in the Holy Spirit is most precious for He is the faithful one, God’s Beloved Son. We heard God the Father say as much when Jesus was baptized and again here on the Mountain of Transfiguration. These word are a comfort to those of us who were baptized into the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ for again “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Next we hear that the Messiah is the Son of God’s Handmaiden. Mary (Jesus’ mother) confirmed these prophetic words when she humbly responded to the Angel Gabriel: “Behold the Handmaiden of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your message” (Luke 1:38). Mary’s proclamation as being “the Handmaiden of God” testified that Jesus is the Messiah. And because Mary is the Mother of the Messiah, she is the Handmaiden of the Lord. Since Jesus is the same ‘yesterday, today, and forever,’ Mary, too, remains God’s Handmaiden, ‘yesterday, today, and forever.’ Being God’s eternal Handmaiden, she continues to serve and disciple the Mystical Body of Christ as it journeys into eternal life (the communion of saints).

Then we understand via the Psalm that the Messiah offers a new sacrifice, one of Thanksgiving (Eucharist) to the LORD. It is my understanding that rabbinic tradition states: “the Messiah would bring an end to animal sacrifice and establish a new and eternal sacrifice; a covenant with the Father which is a Eucharistic (todah) Sacrifice of Thanksgiving.”
On the night before Jesus died, he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: “This is my Body which is offered up for you… in the same way he took the cup saying this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.”

St. Ignatius the Martyr and the third bishop of Antioch (110+ AD) in his Letter to the Church in Ephesus identified this Eucharist (one common breaking of bread) as “the medicine of immortality and the sacred remedy by which we escape and live in Jesus Christ for evermore.”
Symbolic bread is not the “medicine of immortality and the means of being eternally united to Christ.”

And so, Jesus who is God’s Eternal Word -- for whom and through whom all things were made and through whom God sustains all things – made a command to nature on Holy Thursday, “This is my Body.” The Apostles witnessed Jesus command nature on many occasions: Jesus said to the wind and the waves, “Stop and be still!” (Mark 4:39) and so they became calm. And again in Mark’s Gospel Jesus takes the loaves and fishes, offers a prayer of thanksgiving, breaks the two loaves of bread (Mark 6: 41) and then gives it to his disciples and through them feeds 5000 men not counting children and women. In Mark 14: 22, the same exact words are recorded as part of the Holy Thursday events. And yet, Jesus’ command to nature “this is my body” still scandalizes many disciples.

The literal reality of Jesus' one eternal sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and the Eucharist as being "Body and Blood" remains verboten as part of their assent of faith in Christ. Atheists argue, "Jesus’ words are only symbolic" – a natural conclusion since they deny his Divinity. In other words, a person’s faith only needs to be on the same level of an atheist to hold that the Eucharist is a symbol. Is that the core of the matter? Maybe there resides an element of doubt about whether “Jesus is True God and True Man?” Or is it simply a struggle with obedience to the Deposit of Faith (the oral and written tradition of the Church handed down to us by the apostles) and the implications thereof?

Either way, the Mystical Body of Christ never reaches full communion, as St. Paul envisioned would be the case. “Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10: 17)