What is real anymore?
Not too long ago - I was catching up on one of endless repeated showings of the TV sit-com "The Big Bang Theory" and the real life, international astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson had a guest spot along with the fictitious physicists of the show - Raj, Sheldon, Leonard. Sheldon, who’s socially awkward to begin with happens to bump into Raj who introduces Dr. Tyson to Sheldon in the hallway of the University where they work at to which Sheldon (in his characteristically snarky manner) responds "I’m quite familiar with Dr. Tyson - He’s responsible for the demotion of Pluto from planetary status. I liked Pluto. Ergo, I do not like you." It was a funny scene reminded me of how big that story was just about 8 years ago - when the planet Pluto was ruled not to be a planet anymore. (watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3DfwFZZXDQ ) A friend of mine from grammar school lamented (in what I hope is sarcastic tone) at the time: After all the torture I endured in Mrs. Davies 6th grade science class about the solar system and having to do a thorough report on Pluto, I find out it’s all been a lie... I don’t know what is real anymore...
More seriously though, we live in a time where reality seems to have less certitude... People post photos or share videos that look surprising, shocking or historic - we find out later they’ve been photo-shopped, edited or altered. Despite living with amazing modern technologies to access information from the comfort of our couches (rather than having to drive to these places called libraries and look things up in those things called Encyclopedias!) There seems to be just as many internet sites giving mis-information as true, verifiable information that even the noblest attempts to get to the truth of things, to figure out what is real seems more challenging than ever.
|Sadly these billboards are accompanied with radio and TV ads|
Even within our Church we’ve not been immune. Rocked by sex-abuse scandals, coverups, and other sinful behaviors... Terrible stories that emerged and traveled all around the world - has caused even the most devout and fervent of believers to experience doubt - to ask what is real.
I was thinking about all of this coming into this feast we celebrate today - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. As Catholics, we are taught that through the amazing gift of the priesthood, Jesus is able to use the hands, the voice, the very person of his priests to make himself real and present as the bread the wine are consecrated and become His Body and His Blood. Jesus invites all of us to behold Him, to welcome Him, to receive Him ourselves. Jesus Christ is really present - body and blood, soul and divinity. Jesus is as present in that Eucharistic Bread and Cup as he was 2,000 years ago sitting in that upper room with his disciples when he first those words we heard in the Gospel where he "took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them ‘This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many." (Mark 14: 22-24)
But perhaps with widespread disbelief over all sorts of things, with people having experienced broken trust, broken promises themselves... where everyone of us can point to someone or something that has happened in our lives that has left us wounded – we see that all of that has had a deteriorating effect which has made us ask what is real anymore? Perhaps that is fueling these statistics. That is part of the reason we feel the absence here of so many of our family members, friends, neighbors... our brothers and sisters in Christ at this Mass.
For you and I, who are here today. Who are here to participate in this Mass. Who are here to receive Jesus’ body and blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. Who may even be dealing with our own doubts, our own misgivings, our own struggles, our own questions of what is real - but have responded to that prompting of the Holy Spirit who encouraged us to be here despite all of that - that act in itself shows what is real.
We are being real in sharing our hearts with the Lord.: What is troubling them; what is causing them to doubt; what is tempting them to move in directions that don’t seem or feel right. We are being real when despite all the confusion and attacks- we’ve gathered together with others who have similarly overcome their own pains and difficulties and we have come looking for a real, true encounter with Jesus Christ.
What we find is that we encounter the same Jesus Christ, who also suffered real pains, real difficulties, the real Passion, the real Cross... We receive the same Jesus Christ who overcame those horrific things and rose from the dead... we receive under the appearance of bread and wine what Pope Francis explained as "Christ’s presence among us... which demands that the power of love overcomes every wound."
As we consume Him, His expectation is that we become what we receive. That we become Eucharist ourselves when we go out from this place back into a world suffering from so much confusion, so much brokeness, so desperate for the Love of God revealed to be made real for them
Every time we follow Jesus’ example - when we give of ourselves. When we lay down our lives for Him and His Gospel. When we allow His voice to direct our lives, upset our plans, present new dreams in the place of the old ones we once valued so highly. When we come to a much deeper, greater trust in Him than we've ever had for anyone, anything else in the world. Then the Eucharist, God’s very presence which we receive is not only real in our teaching, but real and evident in each of our lives... and begins to renew, to heal, to transform a broken world with the real loving presence of Jesus Christ.