Sunday, April 28, 2013

Love and the Eucharist

The Last Supper and First Eucharist
Readings for Sunday, April 28/ 5th Sunday of Easter:
Acts 14:21-27
Psalm 145:8-13
Revelation 21:1-5
John 13:31-35

***First Communion Weekend***

As we continue looking during this Easter Season at the meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection for our lives, both here and in eternity, the scriptures take us back to the Last Supper just before Jesus showed His love by undergoing His Passion. It is there that the New Commandment of Jesus is given to the Twelve and to all of us who call ourselves Christians. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” When we first think about it, Jesus telling us to love others doesn’t seem new. After all, the Jewish leaders held that loving God and neighbor were to the two highest laws of the Torah. So what is new about this commandment Jesus gives? The fact that He calls us to love like He does.

When Jesus became a man and lived among us, He showed us what real love is. It can be summed up in a nice little acronym FUSS: Forgiving, Understanding, Selfless, and Sacrificial. The love that Jesus showed  was a love that didn’t worry about how far He would have to go or what He would have to do. His loved wasn’t about what He would get out of the deal. It wasn’t about just loving the good parts of people, but instead loving all of them, even the bad. And even when those He loved abandoned Him in His time of need, He still loved them and showed that love with the sign of peace. Jesus’ wasn’t about Him at all, but about us – all of us. And that is the love He wants us to have too.

Now I don’t know about you, but to love like Jesus does sounds incredibly difficult, almost impossible. I can love people to an extent. It’s easy to love others when we set boundaries – I’ll love you this much but no more, I’ll sacrifice for you but only so far, I’ll forgive you but only when if you’re really sorry for it. There are all kinds of conditions that we can put on our willingness to love others, but the love that Jesus invites us to goes beyond all of those. And if He invites us - and even commands us - to love like He does, it has to be possible. So how can we do it? How can we love like God loves? Well, think about where this story is in the Scripture – the Last Supper!

The Apostles had just received the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus in that First Eucharistic Celebration! That’s how they were able to hear the call to love like Jesus and start putting it into action. Does it mean they did it perfectly? No. After all, just a few hours after this story they’ll all have abandoned Jesus. But as they continued to gather and celebrate the Eucharist together, they grow in their ability to love like Jesus. At the beginning their love was a very human love, and imperfect love. But as we hear later in the Scriptures, their love became a love like that of Jesus. Ten of the original Apostles even gave their lives us for others just like Christ! But it was only because they were sustained by His life in the Eucharist.

If we come and receive Holy Communion, we can love like Christ. If we don’t come and receive Holy Communion, we can’t love like Christ. That’s the power of the Eucharist – it changes us! But we have to want the change to happen. We can come week after week and receive Communion, but if we don’t expect a change to happen and don’t ask for God to help with anything in our lives, nothing will happen, nothing will change because we don’t invite Him to do it. He can’t change what we won’t let Him. But if we come to Communion with a prayer on our heart – ‘Lord, help me to fight against this particular sin’ or ‘Lord, help me with this situation going on at work or school or home’ or something similar – then when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist He will give us the grace to change and be changed. It might not happen immediately, but it will happen.

Benedict XVI distributing Holy Communion
Often I have people ask me why we have to go to Mass each week. It’s usually stated something like “I don’t know why I have to go. I mean, Jesus can hear my prayers just as well at home as He does here.” I absolutely agree – God hears every prayer we prayer regardless of where we are. But there is more to it than that. We come here week after week for many reasons – to be members of the Christian community, to show our faith in public action, to fulfill God’s command to observe the Sabbath. But practically speaking and more personally, we come so that we can be filled with the Life of God. Every one of us, I’m sure, has a cell phone, iPad or something that requires batteries or recharging. And what happens if we don’t charge them or keep power to them? They die. I can have a great phone, but if I don’t charge it, it fails to do what it is meant for and instead I just have a really nice paperweight. And the same thing goes for our spiritual lives. If we don’t come and get charged up by Christ in the Eucharist, if we don’t come and receive His life, then we fail to be what we are called to be. In Baptism we are made like Christ and are supposed to be His presence in the world – we are supposed to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the leaven of society, that change everything because we’ve been changed. But if we don’t let ourselves be changed, then we’re not really Christians. We’re just acting like them.

So the invitation from the Lord today is to be love in the world and to be that love, we must first be nourished by He who is Love itself – Jesus Christ. Let us come and receive Him with joy in our hearts. Let us ask and even beg to be changed, that all might see and know that we Christians by the love of Christ which we share.