Monday, January 23, 2012

The Soup Kitchen of the World

Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn -33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man's real food—what truly nourishes him as man—is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us—as love. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. The sacramental “mysticism”, grounded in God's condescension towards us, operates at a radically different level and lifts us to far greater heights than anything that any human mystical elevation could ever accomplish.
Deus Caritas Est, 13
Reflection – After yesterday’s political post, it is good today to ground ourselves back into the depth of reality. Politics come and go: love abides forever. And love, only because of what Jesus did and revealed to us, is not sentiment or physical urge, not vague benevolence or kindly feelings. It is bread and wine, food and drink.
It is as real, as concrete as a slap in the face (but better than that, somehow!). Love is not something ‘out there’, something hidden in some recess of God that we have to spend our life searching for. Love is not a scarcity commodity that we have to scramble for and wrestle away from others for ourselves.
Love is not something we have to be so desperate to get that we do terrible things to get it, prostituting ourselves out for little crumbs of love (as so many young girls and women do, if I can put it rather bluntly), or plunging into every internet brothel and x-rated site we can find to satisfy that urge for love in a pale and shoddy physical substitute for it (as so many young men do).
Love is bread and wine, food and drink. Love pours itself out upon us from every altar, every tabernacle, every Mass. There is no shortage of love; God’s love is poured out upon all, all the time. We just have to receive it.
But what is this reception? Yes, there is the mere fact of being a practicing Catholic and receiving the Eucharist, and this is no small thing.
But it seems to me that, if this reception of the Eucharist is to be understood and known by us as the reception of every bit of God’s love, the whole of Love Itself poured into our souls with every reception of holy communion, we have to be living in a certain way.
It is this ‘wisdom’ that the Pope talks about. Wisdom in the Biblical tradition is not esoteric knowledge or speculative intellectualizing. It is practical: how are we to live? What are we supposed to do? Hokmah (Hebrew) or Sophia (Greek) is what tells us how to live a good life.
So this Eucharist which is food and drink, which is God’s love poured out, is also Wisdom. It tells us how to live. In other words, if you want your hunger of love to be filled, love. If you want to know yourself to be loved by God in a total, unconditional, free, life-giving, all-embracing way, then at least start to love that way yourself, at least a bit, as much as you can. Pour yourself into the task of love in the world, and then turn to God to receive His love as food and drink. Empty yourself out, and then show up at the great Soup Kitchen of the world, the Mass, with your beggar’s bowl to be filled up.
That’s all there is to it! Simple, huh? It hurts like blazes to live like this, and pushes us beyond anything we can imagine, but it is the only way to live in the precincts of love and gift, the only way to be really and truly filled with everything we hunger for.
It’s the only way to be happy.

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