1 Cor. 15:1-11
There’s a big river right outside the monastery. I’m frequently reminded of its beauty when I greet guests and show them around for the first time. There are plenty of ways we interact with it, whether trying to get across it to go into the city of Boston or dealing with the inevitable noise of rowing teams and their coaches shouting over loud-speakers. The river is a constant part of our life, but engaging with it on its own terms takes more effort. Getting close to it is a completely different experience. Walking along the banks you begin to notice all of the life that it supports. Getting into a kayak or canoe you really get a sense for the smell, and temperature of the water, its size, and power. It really comes alive in ways that a passing glance from the monastery window fails to offers.
It’s the same with Jesus and our spiritual lives. Proximity doesn’t guarantee engagement. The apostle Paul give the church in Corinth some very basic but vital reminders about the reality of person of Jesus. Handing on of first importance what he had received, Paul reminds them, “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time… Then to James, the other apostles,” and finally to Paul himself.
Even in the company of eye-witnesses to Jesus powerful life and resurrection Paul reminds them because engagement makes all the difference. It’s so easy for our pretty windows, finely wrought crucifixes, and icons to fade into the background like white noise unless we recollect ourselves and engage directly with the tangible reality to which they all point.
The ardently religious may, in fact, need more reminders than most. For as much as the pharisees were expending a lot of energy trying to be right with God they were missing an opportunity to commune with God directly in Jesus, not just in systems of belief but the actual palpable, physical person of Jesus. In our own time, thoughtfully addressing injustice and climate emergency, even navigating our own spiritual dispositions can drift into abstraction and distraction if we don’t take care to participate deeply with the person of Jesus who comes to forgive our debt and make us at peace.
Drawing near to Jesus himself, like touching the water of the river, is an entirely different experience. The woman with the alabaster jar came in all her earthy humanity to engage with God in the flesh, Jesus. The tears, the perfumed ointment, lips, hair, feet, all conduits between physical bodies sharing spiritual grace; the source of weeping- tears of contrition yes, and also relief, adoration, and joy. To hear and know in the body, you are forgiven, you are made whole in the peace of Jesus; this is the deep engagement of the incarnation.
However else we may encounter God, in ways that we are call to act and serve, they are all born here in the deep communion with Jesus himself. Bring your body and your soul to a renewed touch of Jesus. Let the presence of Jesus himself offered at this holy table draw us once again to the ground and source of our being. The body and soul of Christ are here to mingle with our bodies and souls; to make us whole.
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