Terrance KleinJune 02, 2021
Photo by Matthew MacQuarrie on Unsplash.

A Reflection for Corpus Christi

Readings: Exodus 24:3-8 Hebrews 9:11-15 Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

The dead don’t talk. That’s what we say, isn’t it? Here is the Gospel question: Can they hear or see? And if we ourselves cannot hear or see what truly matters, are we the walking dead?

Having experienced faith in Jesus Christ, the church father Origen said that to live without God was to be as good as dead, in this life and in the life to come. He went so far as to suggest that if we do not know that life without God is not worth living, it can only be because we are not truly alive.

Put another way, the difference between the saints and the impious was a matter of life or death because for Origen, to live was to know. One who can hear God in the murmuring of conscience and see God present in the daily events of life could not possibly choose anything else. It would be akin to choosing death over life. In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Origen wrote:

He is God, therefore, of the fathers and of all the saints; one would not find it recorded anywhere that God is the God of any of the impious. If, therefore, he is God of the saints and is said to be God of the living, the saints are living and the living are saints. There is neither a saint outside the living, nor one called living only, who does not also have with his life the fact that he is also a saint (II.118).

If you cannot see or hear God, you are dead. I say this not to dismiss unbelievers but to chide those who presume that they live in God. Indeed, a repeated occurrence in the lives of the saints is the sudden awareness that they have lost the way, that they are no longer really living. Sprinkled with scarcely a drop of grace, they suddenly see the barrenness of life.

If you cannot see or hear God, you are dead.

Return to our opening question: Are we alive or dead? Are we more dead than alive? Here is a place to pose the question, a behavior to examine. At Eucharist, during the breaking of the bread, the congregation sings:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

It is a communal recognition that, although we are called to be living saints, we have given way to sin. Only God can grant us peace. But then, the priest holds aloft the chalice and the broken bread so that we can clearly see them. And he says:

Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

I cannot help but wonder. Why do so few look up? The priest addresses us, raises in his hands the very blood that was spent for us, the body that was broken upon the cross for us. How dead must we be not to hear, not to look up and see?

If you have not been touched by God, if you have not felt a real and new life stirring within you, there is still hope. If, that is, you can yet hear and see.

This is not a metaphor, not a symbolic exhortation. The one who died speaks, at this very moment by means of sacrament, standing triumphant in our midst. The saints hear; they look up, and they see. If we do not look up in wonder, it can only be for the same reason that we fail to shake when the Scriptures are read to us. We are dead. We are the walking dead. Why look for a resurrection yet to come when we are already dead?

Belief is not a one-time decision to accept the unproven. That would be to confuse the portal with the path. Belief is a way of life that reveals itself to be life, to be life-giving. Belief bestows a land wherein we truly live, a level of reality we cannot live without. The saints see and hear what the impious cannot. To know is to live. If you have been touched by grace, you know this. You also know not to take this knowledge for granted. Life itself can be forgotten. We can forget to live.

If you have not been touched by God, if you have not felt a real and new life stirring within you, there is still hope. If, that is, you can yet hear and see.

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