Sometimes, I wonder if familiarity does indeed breed contempt, even in things that are amazingly holy. “Ah, another mass. Isn’t this nice. [look around] Sure glad the A/C works. [Look at ceiling] Wish they’d get around to repairing those stains in the ceiling. The new class of servers are cute, but they are a bit fidgety. Hmm! That couple that usually sits in front of me wasn’t there today. I hope they are okay… I’m glad it was not Fr. Ron today… he might ask me questions, and I never know the answers. Why did they pick that song at communion?” And so it goes. It is easy to take mass for granted because of our familiarity with it.
I wonder if the antidote on this Corpus Christi Sunday to that is to re-emphasis the mass at SACRIFICE. Since Vatican II, I think we have a good understanding of the Mass as meal, as food, as sustenance for the journey. And because we get that, it’s okay if we sometimes kind of cruise through mass like a meal at a fast food restaurant. But, when I think about Mass as sacrifice, as the laying down of one’s life – that is harder to ignore, especially when I see sacrifice in action.
So, where have you known sacrificial love these days? Let me share two quick stories. I had a free evening last Friday, so I went to Dave and Ann Larson’s house. Dave’s ALS has progressed, and that evening, he was confined to his bedroom/bed. He is now surrounded by more machines. Ann was explaining the technology, especially now that they use oxygen to assist him. There is that finger clip that monitors the blood oxygen level. That number, which shows up on the bipap machine needs to be somewhere between 96-98%. But there is another number equally important that also shows up. That is the CO2 level, and apparently, one of the dangers of using oxygen with a bipap machine is the inadvertent trapping of the harmful carbon dioxide inside the body.
So Ann now spends her nights in the chair by his bedside, checking every time she wakes up (about every half hour or so, all through the night.) to make sure that number is not too high or too low… She also helps to clean his mouth of the mucus that builds up, and keeps the mask clean. And helps to adjust him on the bed, and move the pillows and position the mask. And about 50 things that she just does *snap* as the disease is more and more invasive, and the care is more and more demanding. As I was driving away, the simple line from every mass we are blessed to partake in came rushing into my head. This is my body, given for you. Indeed, for Ann, that is exactly what she offers to Dave in her love.
Yesterday evening (Friday), I came back from late communion calls to see the side lot full of cars and people moving about. So I drove around the corner, and there were about 8 scouts milling about, with the trailer loaded, and ready to rumble. They were heading out for the weekend, an overnight camping trip. I asked who was going along, and I was told: There are 2 moms, one dad and Mike Hubbard going with them. Mike, apparently, is a category all his own…;-) And Mark Haley was driving the trailer with their gear down, and then returning on Sunday to pick it back up. Was it world shattering stuff going on in that parking lot? No. It was ‘just’ an “Ordinary” sacrifice – of people laying down their lives so that the next generation of children on this planet might know a mentoring kind of love. And again, I heard the echo from the Mass: “This is my blood, poured out for you and for the many…”
And so it goes. In ways that are heroic and mundane and every degree in between, you and I are surrounded by people who are living sacrificial lives. And in doing so, they are mirroring Christ to the world. And I like to believe that they bring all those choices and sacrifices and join them to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Altar. When I am mindful of that, no mass ever seems ‘ordinary’.
So, this Corpus Christi Sunday, I invite you to think about the Mass and sacrifices being offered on this altar with one little change of perspective. See the words of institution, not from your eyes, but from mine. Put yourself where I stand as you hear those words. You see, every time I hold up the bread and say “this is my body”, I also see past the Body of Christ in my hands to the parents who are raising their special need child. And the woman with cancer who is more concerned about her son than her own dying. And the single mom shepherding 4 active kids at mass – all who are the living Body of Christ. Each time I hold that cup: “poured out for you and for many…” I see the face of the man who cuts the elderly neighbor’s lawn and shovels the snow for him. I see the nurse who goes above and beyond the call of duty in caring for her patients. I see the family that meets to ask how much to set aside to help the Vincent De Paul society this month…
And then, as my eyes go back and forth between Body and Blood of Christ in my hands, and the Body of Christ in the pews, I see my Eucharistic Lord. And that is why I kneel after those words – because BOTH you and the Body and Blood are so Holy, and so amazingly beautiful. When you see the sacrifice – of our Lord and of each other – then it never seems like ‘just another mass…’