Summary: Jesus tells us that he will not miss the pain and suffering, because that is an integral part of our fallen human nature, and he was like us in all things except sin.
Monday of 11th Week in Course
Church from Eucharist
Today’s reading from Matthew makes me squirm a bit. Maybe you, too. In modern English, we might say, if someone takes your shirt, go to your closet and give him your sport coat as well. That’s not to mention the radical call to nonviolence we see in the first line. It sounds like a clarion call both to get beaten up and to become radically impoverished, and that’s exactly what it is. I believe St. John Paul’s encyclical on the Eucharist, though, gives us some help in interpretation and application.
Last week we left Jesus at prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. There are a couple of olive trees in this large garden that were probably teenagers on the night before Jesus died. They witnessed his heaving sobs of anguish and their roots drank in the sweat and blood he shed there. This is the hour Jesus expressed dread of: But, “although deeply troubled, Jesus does not flee before His ‘hour’. ‘And what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour?' No, for this purpose I have come to this hour" (Jn 12:27). Jesus wanted His disciples to keep Him company, yet He had to experience loneliness and abandonment.”
That is the key to understanding here: Jesus tells us to submit to violence, to submit to humiliation and poverty and injustice so that we might be in his company, so that we might imitate him. It’s the point of application of the Beatitudes: blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are you when they curse and persecute you. The hour of Jesus is, ultimately, the hour of the Christian, the hour of the Church. Our Sunday Eucharist is, in a real sense, the community celebrating the hour of Jesus at Mass in the Holy Sepulchre.
Jesus suffered, died, and rose again. When we meet for Eucharist, we celebrate that entire cycle of redemption. We’d love to skip the first two words and jump to the resurrection, would we not? Some Christian denominations still ignore Lent and jump to Easter. But that makes the life and sacrifice of Jesus less human, and thus makes it less capable of raising toward divinity. Jesus tells us that he will not miss the pain and suffering, because that is an integral part of our fallen human nature, and he was like us in all things except sin. So in this Eucharist he enjoins us and the whole Church to join together in his redemptive mystery: Save us, Savior of the world, for by Your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.