Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Praying for Scars

Readings for Sunday, June 7/ Corpus Christi:
Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark14:12-16, 22-26

Each weekend we come and profess our faith in the Creed and specifically mention our belief in a resurrection of the body. As we profess such a claim, we refer not to Jesus’ resurrection, but to the belief that one the last day those in the glory of Heaven will receive glorified bodies much like that of Christ. One question I sometimes ponder is whether that body will have scars.

When I look at my body I can see the many scars that have resulted from past wounds. The black line on the tip of the middle finger of my left hand calls to mind the time when a friend had a flat tire in the parking lot at school and after jacking up the car it began to fall off the jack and I, presuming myself to be Superman, tried to hold up the car so it wouldn’t fall. As it fell, because I’m clearly NOT Superman, it cut my hand open. I can look at the scar on my index finger and call to mind the time when I was cutting wood the saw decided to move from wood to flesh in a swift motion. Those and many other scars tell me stories of past events that have since been healed.

This weekend we celebrate Corpus Christi, a feast honoring the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, dating back to the 12th Century when a miracle happened in which the Host turned into flesh and began to bleed on the altar. The Gospel we just heard recounts that ancient night when the Lord Jesus gave us that great gift saying those blessed words we hear each and every Mass. What strikes me this week is the phrase Jesus uses to describe the cup: ‘my blood of the covenant.’ The disciples present at the meal would have heard in this a phrase that had deep implications. In the first reading we heard about God making a covenant with the Israelites and how Moses takes the blood of an animal and pours some on an altar and then sprinkles the rest upon the people present and this ‘blood of the covenant’ is a seal upon each of them that they are members of the covenant relationship and have now rights, as well as obligations. Parenthetically, the sprinkling rite we do at various points throughout the year has its roots in this ancient symbol and, rather than being the priest’s opportunity to sling water and make people laugh, it reminds us that we too are part of a covenant with God, much like the Israelites of old.

One point that always makes me smile is the response of the Israelites to the reading of the commands of the Law of God: “We will do everything the Lord has told us!” To which I respond in my head: “What a bunch of liars.” You have only to look at the next page to find them going astray, committing sin and following false gods. In fact, that seems to be the pattern of God’s people all throughout history. Over and again, each generation follows the Lord and flees from Him at different times. Even the Apostles follow the same path, as Simon Peter proclaims that he will never deny His Lord and yet does so thrice before sun-up. And are we any different? A thousand times it seems I’ve gone into the confessional and made my act of contrition saying ‘I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more, to avoid the near occasion of sin and to do penance’ and yet within days or hours, there I go back to my same ways. What all of this shows us is that the people who have been united to God by a covenantal bond are not a perfect people, but a wounded people, and the one thing that can fix us is the One who created us: God.

Pope Francis beautifully said once that the Eucharist is not the prize for the good, but the remedy for those in need. Holy Communion isn’t our reward for being good all week. It’s the medicine to heal our souls from the wounds of sin. This is why we have to come every week. Have you seen the commercial where they say “Wouldn’t it be great if one piece of broccoli could prevent cancer? Or one push-up could prevent heart disease?” Well, wouldn’t it be great if we only needed to come to Holy Communion one time and we were made perfect and completely sinless? I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting for that one to happen. And that’s the point. It’s not a one-and-done type of situation but rather and invitation to receive the Lord Jesus and have Him heal our wounds over time, the same as our body needs, and to continue the work as we continue to fall into our sin.

To prove that I’m not just pulling this out of nowhere, lets take a look at the prayers of the Mass. Each weekend I pray Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon, and do so for many reasons, one of which is the point I’ve just noted. Near the beginning the priest prays, “Remember, Lord, your servants…” and if you look at the text it includes the phrase “N. and N.” Those two N’s are spots for names because the priest is calling to mind the living for whom he is offering the Mass or praying for particularly. He continues, saying, “and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise, or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them.” So we specifically come to offer the sacrifice of the Mass for ourselves and others, and it lists three reasons: “for redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true.” In hope of health and well-being. Healing, both of body and soul, is one of the reasons we come to Mass. It is the way that Christ casts out sin and makes us more and more like Himself, bringing us on the path to holiness and preparing us for the glory of the Kingdom.

Do not be afraid. Don’t hold back asking for graces of healings, thinking they might be too much to ask. Let us turn to Jesus. Let us open our hearts to Him and show Him the wounds from our sin. And let us pray to see the day when our wounds will instead be scars.

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