Where the World Ends and Heaven Begins

For Sunday, May 29, 2016, Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Angel at the border of heaven and earth.

Panis Angelicus fit panis hominum.
(May the bread of Angels become bread for mankind.)

This world is not always the easiest place to live. Few would mistake our earthly existence for heaven. Yet, we live in hope of heaven because God crashed into human history through the Incarnation, Jesus Christ, who redeemed this fallen world by his death and resurrection. Feeding our hope even more is that Jesus chose to remain present to us in this world in a very real way through the holy Eucharist. At the altar, we see where this world ends and heaven begins.

There has been an increased emphasis in US parishes and dioceses on the holy Eucharist in recent years. Adoration chapels, eucharistic adoration among the young and old, and Holy Hours seem to be more common than they were just a decade ago. As we seek greater assistance in living within this world, we are looking more and more to this food of the angels spoken about eloquently by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Panis Angelicus. Our presence at the Mass, our reception of his body and blood, and our time spent in resting in his presence are all ways we bridge our own world with heaven and receive sustenance for our earthly journey.

Even with this reality, many of us have fallen into a type of apathy toward the holy Eucharist. We watch television shows about the supernatural, are intrigued by stories of apparitions and visions, and do lay research on life after death, yet when we come face-to-face with the real presence of Jesus Christ we can seem distracted and even unaware. The greatest miracle can be witnessed every day on the altars of churches all over the world, yet when Jesus’ face seems to appear on a piece of toast, that’s when we take notice. Many of us in the Church have become complacent and too comfortable and fail to truly notice when heaven actually breaks into our everyday reality.

During a recent presentation, I was questioned about my use of the word radical when describing the life that we are called to by Jesus Christ. In today’s world, the word has such a negative connotation. We speak of those who have been radicalized as preaching hatred, distorting religious doctrine, and turning to terrorism. Those who seek to bring something other than love into the world have hijacked the word and concept.

However, no one can deny that Jesus was pretty radical. He sought to break apart the status quo and bring discomfort to those who had become all too comfortable in their own interpretation of God’s law. Jesus’ passion and resurrection as redemption for all creation can only be seen as a movement of radical love. Furthermore, the reality of Jesus being present to us in the appearances of simple bread and wine is certainly outside of the confines of logic and common sense. We are disciples of the One who gave meaning to the word radical.

Have many of us in the Church become too comfortable and too mainstream? Have we allowed others to monopolize the idea of what it is to be countercultural, subversive, and even radical, because we have been anything but these things? Pope Francis would perhaps say, “yes!” He is a pope that is anything but a reflection of the status quo. His actions and words have confronted and challenged us all. Are we not called to more than that which makes us comfortable? When the Church canonizes Blessed Mother Teresa later this year, she will hold up for us all an example of true radical faith. The Jesus in her constantly sought to minister to the Jesus in the poor and forsaken. She would say, “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.” Should her example of radical discipleship not call us all out of our apathy toward a greater empathy for the children of God?

On this solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, it is time to awake from our slumber as church and reclaim our role as disrupter of the status quo and mainstream. We need to bring love into the world’s landscape with a much greater intensity than those who bring hate. We need to bring healing and comfort where others bring pain and death.

The Bread of Life will be our nourishment for this task at hand. Let us stand in awe at the altar and then rush forward to receive him, instead of slowly strolling toward our Redeemer as if we were asleep. Let us not remain complacent, but instead allow this gift from heaven to stir our hearts. When we look at the holy Eucharist, let Jesus ask us each and every time, “Who do you say that I am?”

If enough of us allow this food of the angels to change us, then the world will really see something radical. They will see a little heaven on earth.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

PRAYER

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:

O res mirabilis:
manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
Amen.

From Sacris Solemniis by St. Thomas Aquinas

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