Corpus Christi Sunday
May 29, 2016
I have resisted total knee replacement (both knees) for a number of years now and for a number of different reasons (excuses)…some rational and some not so much. At the top of the list is the concern over infection and rejection of the implant. Although there are many more happy recipients of “new knees” than those who have experienced the complications that concern me, still, I am wary…of infection and rejection! So, I continue to hobble around dealing with pain and significant limitations. This experience, however, caused me to read the Scripture passage from morning prayer this past week with new insight.
The Old Testament Reading was Genesis 2:23-24. Often chosen to be proclaimed at Christian weddings, this short and powerful passage is commonly referred to as “the Second Creation Story.” So often, however, we listen to this passage without digging deeper into just exactly what transpired at creation.
There was anesthesia. (The Lord cast a deep sleep on the man.) This was a donor/recipient procedure. (He took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up its place with flesh.) The recipient received the rib, and the procedure was entirely successful, as indicated by the delight of the donor upon awakening. (This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.) What we sometimes gloss over is just exactly what that means.
Consider, for example, that our bones carry our DNA. The first man’s bones carried within them the Divine DNA…because God created him in the Divine image and likeness. So, in fact, what “the recipient” received, over and above a rib, was what “the donor” was gifted with…a share in the Divine life. This seems all very joyful. However, if you read on…the story turns ugly very quickly.
There is, in fact, infection and rejection! The original sin infected the first parents, who ultimately rejected God. Compounding the tragedy, this first bad choice…this primordial rejection…caused an infection that spread quickly and continues to attack all of humankind…striking at the very core of our being, debilitating us, weakening our bones so that we hobble through life, incapable of being all that we were created to be: images of a good, loving, and merciful God.
But God did not reject us!
Determined to rehabilitate us, God sent Jesus into the world. And through the Lord’s work for our salvation, we were given the antidote to this highly infectious spiritual disease that leads to a rejection of God. The Sacraments of Christian Initiation both prevent as well as treat spiritual infection, and, at the same time, are an exercise and also rehabilitation therapy. By Baptism, the Divine DNA, lying dormant within our bones, is awakened and then protected through Confirmation. And that part of us which is “bone of the Divine bone, and flesh of the Divine flesh” is nurtured and nourished through Eucharist. In a sense, the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation are a “Second Creation Story” because they offer us an opportunity to claim that which was once given, but was ultimately rejected…a share in the Divine Life. When we embrace these gifts and do our best to live within the Sacramental Life of the Church, our bones become strong and resilient, and our true identity breaks forth for all to see. When we do not use irrational excuses to absent ourselves from Eucharist, we are strengthened so that we no longer hobble through life in pain, but walk with confidence and hope toward our destiny…a complete and perfect union with God. When we satisfy our hunger for Eucharist, we become what we eat: The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
This weekend, Corpus Christi Sunday, we conclude the finale to the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Next Sunday, we resume Ordinary Time. As we move forward into the Church year, it is important not to lose sight of the truth that we are not ordinary! We are the bone of His bones…the flesh of His flesh…
We are Corpus Christi! We are the Body of Christ!