Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Is My Body

[This may turn into a sermon one day. We'll see. I need to think about this some more. Comments and concerns welcome. But for now, some Holy Thursday thoughts and musing, inspired by a sermon I recently read by Ronald Knox.]

"This is my body."

The first time those words become flesh for us is as newborns. A baby begins to discover his body, finger, toes, hair, all these new things. This is my body, he thinks. Given to me.

Then at the opposite end of life, it happens again. During our life, when we are healthy and busy and our days are full of work and play, we tend to forget about our body - we're too consumed with other things. But when we get old it happens again. Our bodies start wearing out, pains come more frequently and more sharply, maybe breathing becomes more difficult, it is harder to get out of bed in the morning. And then one day, lying there, not so busy nor able anymore, the thought comes again: this is my body. My body that doesn't work so good anymore.

Jesus went through both those times with us. He was born as a baby, just as we. So He, too, discovered His fingers and toes. This is My body, He realized. Jesus also had that time at the end of life. Not old age as most of us, but when His body was wracked with pain, when breathing was difficult, while he was hanging on the cross. This is My body, that He was giving for you, as the sacrifice for your sin.

But along with those two end points of life, there is yet another time those words become a part of our life, and that is when we get married. When husband and wife (who according to God's plan, anyway, have lived chastely up to this point) give themselves to one another. This is my body, the wife says (perhaps even without words) to her husband; and the husband to the wife. They give themselves, their bodies, to one another, and become one flesh.

Is this where the analogy fails? Not at all. While Jesus was not married as we (notwithstanding some recent books and movies that try to make us believe He was secretly married to mary Magdalene), He did have a spouse. Yes, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the Bridegroom and His bride is the Church. And here we see how Jesus gave Himself to His bride. He gave himself for her on the cross, and on the night when He was betrayed, before he went to the cross to lay down his life, He gave His Body to her. This is My Body, given for you. Not sexually, but in holiness. Not a mere symbol, but His real Body. We call it Holy Communion.

Does this seem like a stretch? Perhaps. But maybe not when you consider that the crucifixion is filled with bridal imagery. When Paul calls human marriage an icon of the real marriage of Christ and His bride, the Church, he refers to the fact that Christ lays down His life for His bride. Then there is Jesus' giving of His mother to his disciple. A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his bride and the two shall become one flesh (Mt 19:5). The Son of God left His Father to come down from heaven in His incarnation, and while hanging on the cross leaves His mother and clings to His bride. And when Jesus comes again at the end of time, the great feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end, will begin (Rev 21).

Until that day, This is My Body, given for you, He says. The Bridegroom to His bride. Given to make us his own. Given to wash us clean in forgiveness and make us beautiful and radiant brides. That we be one with Him.

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