SFX Bulletin, 18 January 2015 The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday brought to a close the season of Christmas and the start of Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is not “boring” or “unimportant” as the word “Ordinary” seems to imply. “Ordinary” is from the Latin root “ordo” from which we get the word “order”. So Ordinary Time is “ordered time” – the weeks are numbered and the counting reminds us to make progress – to use God’s grace to grow in faith.
God’s grace comes to us principally through the sacraments especially the most Holy Eucharist – the central Christian sacrament. As such, the Sunday gospel for the start of Ordinary Time is rich in Eucharistic undertones. It is taken from either John the Baptist’s acknowledgement of Jesus as the “lamb of God” (today’s gospel) or Jesus’ first miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. Through these two stories, we are invited in Ordinary Time to order our lives around the mystery of the Eucharist and truly dispose ourselves to being the Body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion.
In explaining this communion between our bodies and the body of the risen Christ in the Eucharist, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, referring to today’s second reading from St. Paul, said, “In order to express fully the intensity and reality of this fusion, Paul compares what happens in Holy Communion with the physical union between man and woman. To help us understand the Eucharist, he refers us to the words in the creation story: ‘The two [=man and wife] shall become one’ (Gen.2:24). And he adds: ‘He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit [that is, shares a single new existence in the Holy Spirit] with him” (1 Cor. 6:17).
As to how the Holy Eucharist makes us more Christ-like, he quoted a vision St Augustine had, “In the period before his conversion, when he was struggling with the incarnational aspect of Christian belief…he heard a voice saying to him, ‘I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me”…this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren” (God is Near Us, The Eucharist, The Heart of Life, pg.77-78).
This transformation into Christ, however, does not work like magic and requires our participation. They are “sacraments of faith” and while ‘the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God”, nevertheless, “the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them” (CCC1123, 1128).
Today’s Liturgy of the Word highlights this need for a proper disposition in order that we truly encounter God who calls us unceasingly. Little Samuel shows untiring duty when he runs three times to Eli announcing, “Here I am, since you called me” (1 Sam. 3:4,6,8). Andrew and the other disciple (traditionally said to be John, the son of Zebedee) follow Jesus, “the lamb of God” unhesitatingly when told of Jesus’ identity by John (Jn.1:36). In contrast the Corinthian converts had a poor disposition. They enjoyed the pagan practice of seeking temple prostitutes even as they partake of the Eucharist, leading St. Paul to chastise them over desecrating their bodies, the temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor.6:19).
This Ordinary Time can be an extraordinary time for rediscovering Jesus in the Eucharist. May we be untiring in our search for understanding of this most Holy Sacrament so that we, too, can have the joy of Andrew and John, “We have found the Messiah!” – “We have found Jesus who is truly present in the Eucharist!”