Sunday, June 03, 2018

More Than Just A Place

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (B)

My dear friends, do you still remember Uber? Well, before Uber was gobbled up by Grab, it actually produced a couple of pretty decent advertisements. Do you remember, for example, the one that focuses on Gillman Barracks?

A little boy dreams about becoming an artist, but gets discouraged and disillusioned when his friends tease and bully him. So, to help him find inspiration, his mother brings him to the art galleries at Gillman Barracks. At the same time, a retired soldier also travels to Gillman Barracks for a reunion with his army buddies. And it is at this former military base, now converted into a centre for contemporary art, that the novice searching for his dreams and the veteran reaching into his memories quite literally bump into each other. They meet in the present, even as one seeks to connect with his future, and the other with his past. And how do they get there? On Uber of course. It is Uber that brings them to where they need to be. As the narrator tells us near the end: where is more than just a place. Whether you’re going back to your best days, or starting your best ones, we’ll get you there.

It’s true, isn’t it, sisters and brothers? Whether or not we’ve ever used Uber. It’s true that where is more than just a place. More than a physical location. Where is also about making connections. About recalling our past and dreaming our future. The better to find new meaning and energy in the present.

Which is good to remember especially today, because as you may have noticed, the question where? appears twice in the gospel. Where, the disciples ask Jesus, do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover? Where is my dining room…? The Lord instructs them to ask the owner of the house. And the reading gives us the obvious answer: a large upper room. And yet, if it is true that where is more than just a place, then perhaps the answer goes far deeper than the upper room. Perhaps pondering the question where? can lead us to the true significance of this marvellous feast that we celebrate today: the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

For what does the Eucharist do, if not enable us to make deep connections with our past and our future? The better to live more meaningfully and energetically in the present? Isn’t this what we find in our readings today? When Jesus gathers his friends to break the bread and share the wine, connections are made in different directions. The Lord’s actions hark back to those of Moses in the first reading. For just as Moses uses the blood of animals to seal an awesome connection between the people and their God, so too does Jesus allow his own blood to be used to do the same. But, this time, in an irreversible, indestructible, eternally enduring way.

And precisely because this new connection endures eternally, Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper, and at every celebration of the Eucharist, allow his friends–including you and me–to connect also with our promised future. As the second reading reminds us, The Lord brings a new covenant, as the mediator… so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised. Eternal life-giving connection with God. A promise the final fulfilment of which still awaits us in the kingdom to come. 

Also, even as the Eucharist draws us to recall our past renewed in the sacrifice of Christ, and to look forward to our marvellous future secured in the promise of God, it should also have a positive effect on our lives in the present. For the blood of Christ… can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God. Here and now. So that, motivated by love and mercy, instead of selfishness and anxiety, our lives may be filled with deeper meaning, rather than superficial drudgery. Boundless energy, instead of constant discouragement and disillusionment.

Isn’t this the great wonder of the Eucharist? Perhaps similar in some ways to the wonder of a place like Gillman Barracks? Every time we gather to break the bread and raise the chalice, we proclaim the Lord’s death, the shedding of his blood for love of his friends and enemies alike. We connect deeply with a past and a future held securely and yet so tenderly in the reliable reassuring hands of our loving God. And it is in these connections, it is in these hands, that we find meaning and energy, clarity and courage, to face the challenges of each passing day.

Why then do some of us continue to find the Eucharist such a chore and such a bore? Perhaps it’s because presiders and preachers like me are just not competent or diligent enough. Something that we need to work harder to improve. But then again, perhaps it’s also because, just as the Uber driver cannot take us to Gillman Barracks unless we decide to board the vehicle, neither can the Eucharist take us to where we need to go, unless we make the necessary efforts to celebrate Mass with the attention and reverence it truly deserves.

My dear friends, where is, indeed, more than just a place. For us who are Christian, where is ultimately our deep connection with our loving life-giving God. An eternally enduring connection, sealed by the precious broken body and flowing blood of Christ. God is the destination, and the Eucharist is our means to get there. Not just the Eucharist as it is celebrated here in church. But also the Eucharist as it is meant to be lived out there in our daily lives.

Sisters and brothers, if it is true that God is our where, and the Eucharist is our how, then where are you going, and how are you getting there today?

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