Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Sacrifice and the Body

In my Greek class we are reading the Gospels of John and Matthew this semester. We are just about finished with John, and yes, that's a LOT of Greek for new-ish students to read. Our professor pushes us hard, and throws facts, theories, and interpretations at us like you cannot believe. It's more like being force-fed too much chocolate cake than anything else: there is no time to chew on what you would enjoy if you had leisure to do so. I am trying to counter act this by rereading the relevant texts on my own at a more relaxed pace.

In class we are reading the Passion as recorded by St. John, and so I decided to savor it in adoration. I was enjoying chewing on (what is for now) my favorite Gospel, and felt my meditation was fruitful. The narrative is electrifying. I started looking around at the other folks in the Crypt Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I was startled by a familiar sight: a big, athletic college student on his knees; an aging Latina woman on the same pew; some Africans or African-Americans; a couple religious sisters from Korea or maybe China; some more college students, some dressed like it, and others dressed more nicely, both young men and women in ample number; a few professor- or administrator-looking men and women; and more of the same representing probably about a hundred people. What leaped to my mind was the prediction of our blessed Lord: "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself," (Jn 12:31-2).

How amazing is Jesus! He likewise brings to their knees both the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the local and the foreigner, workers and professors, the young and the old. Is there a nation whose people are not represented in the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ? And here was a cross-section of that Body, and indeed thus of the world, kneeling before the Body of her Lord. When our Lord spoke, I think it is most likely that He was predicting His ascension and the formation of the Church by the Holy Spirit's descent upon His disciples. That prediction kinda gets at a deeper spiritual principle, that God has a sort of magnetism or force of gravity that draws people toward Him. But here, before my eyes, that prediction was being fulfilled in a very particular way. As we the Church get back to basics, back to lifting up Jesus, all these people are being drawn toward Him, the Crucified and Resurrected Lord still present among us. The seek Him, to love Him, and to receive from Him what only He can give: a share in the blessed life of the Holy Trinity and all its implications: undying courage, friendship, love, healing, peace, joy, immortality.

The shared life of God is shared with us by means Jesus' body, sacrificed for us on Calvary. We partake in that sacrifice, as the Jews partook of the Passover Sacrifice, by eating the sacrificed One. Having shared Holy Communion with Jesus, we are united with each other and with Him in one seamless movement - the two unions cannot be separated, only distinguished. The Body whose consumption sanctifies us is adored, drawing out and deepening the sanctification, the communion. What happened on Calvary was once-and-for-all (Heb 7:27) because it is once-drawn-out-forever (Heb 9:11-14; 13:20). Because Christ sits eternally at the right of the Father (Heb 7:25; 8:1-2) offering His Resurrected Body and interceding for us, we as a people from all nations gather daily to recall the sacrifice and to adore the Body that saves us.

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