“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”. These words were proclaimed in today’s holy Gospel.
Before Jesus was crucified, he had his own physical body that enabled him to be present in ancient Palestine. Jesus no longer walks on this earth with his physical body. Now the Church is his Body. Who is the Church? The Church is not the Vatican. The Church is not a building. The Church is the community of believers. You and I together, we are the Church. Therefore, we are the Body of Christ in Sudbury in 2020.
This teaching has an important significance for us today as we gather for prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. Just as Jesus is present in the Scriptures, and just as Jesus is present in the person of the priest, and just as Jesus is present in the bread and the wine after the consecration, he is equally present in the assembly that gathers in his name.
In other words, Jesus is present in 4 ways this afternoon: the Word, the priest, the Eucharist and the people. (Unfortunately, we often fail to emphasize this 4th area.) This means that Jesus is truly present in each of us – in you and in me. When we gather for the Eucharist, Jesus is not only present in the sanctuary. He is present in this area of the building as well.
Just as we reverence Jesus in the Word, the priest and the Eucharist, we ought to reverence Jesus in each other. That’s the reason today’s Gospel states that, when conflicts within a community need to be addressed, the approach ought to be focused on genuine care for the person, fraternal correction and reconciliation rather than personal attacks and division. Since we all belong to Jesus’ body, our call is to respond to each other with loving concern in all circumstances.
This reality has 2 practical implications. To use St. Mother Teresa’s words, the 1st implication is that every person we meet is Jesus in disguise.
Bishop Robert Barron tells this story about Mother Teresa. After completing her novitiate in Darjeeling, Mother Teresa made temporary vows and began teaching in the convent school there and working part-time as an aide at a small hospital.
Once a man arrived at the hospital with a bundle out of which protruded what appeared to be twigs. When Teresa looked more closely, she saw that they were the impossibly emaciated legs of a child, blind and near death. The man told the young sister that if she didn’t take the boy, he would throw him to the jackals.
Teresa’s journal takes up the story: “With much pity and love, I take the little one into my arms, and fold him in my apron. The child has found a second mother.” And then this passage dawned upon her: “And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”
The Church is the Body of Christ; The Body of Christ is people. You and I are part of the Body of Christ; every person we meet is part of the Body of Christ. Jesus is present in every person we meet.
Therefore, in this story, it is Jesus who is emaciated, blind and near death. In taking the boy, Mother Teresa takes Jesus into her arms; she is folding Jesus into her apron; she is becoming a 2nd mother to Jesus. The key to Mother Teresa’s spirituality is that she saw Jesus in every person – no exceptions. The bottom line is that, in serving the needs of others, we are serving Christ himself.
The 2nd implication is this. Our call is to be Jesus to every person we meet.
2,000 years ago, the core of Jesus’ personhood was expressed through his physical body. Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion were made manifest through his body.
Today, the same thing happens. The core of Jesus’ personhood is expressed through his body, the Church. Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion are made manifest through the actions of the Church – in other words, through our actions.
St. Teresa of Avila was a Spanish mystic who lived from 1515 to 1582. Here is one of her famous prayers.
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Christ has no body but yours.
Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion will only be present in our homes, schools, workplaces and places of recreation if you and I bring those qualities there.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”. The invitation is to allow these words to penetrate the depths of our being. As our Eucharist continues, let us ask God for this 2 -fold grace. First, may we recognize Christ in every person we meet. Second, may we be Christ for every person we meet.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
August 12, 2020