The Common Good

Holy Eucharist: How We See Jesus in the 'Other'

When the Word becomes flesh, when the Son of God becomes one who bleeds, Jesus demonstrates God's humble solidarity with human nature from Adam and Eve onward, to the last person born in history.

This vulnerability of God for us, this identification of Jesus with our collective human frailty, changes our perspective on everything. In the light that shines from the face of Jesus Christ, we at last see God and humanity with 20/20 vision.

Paul comes to this vision late in the day, well after the events of God in the flesh that reconcile the Father to God's creation. The vision of Jesus blinds him but when his eyes are healed, having seen Jesus, he sees God and humanity and the world very differently than he did before the vision of Christ that overwhelms him.

Years later, in a letter to the Corinthians, speaking about the church's worship with blest eyes he writes: "When we drink from the cup we ask God to bless, isn't that sharing in the blood of Christ? When we eat the bread we break, isn't that sharing in the body of Christ?"

Paul sees what Jesus meant when he said, "I am that bread from heaven! Everyone who eats it will live forever. My flesh is the life-giving bread I give to the people of this world. ... I tell you for certain that you won't live unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man. But if you do eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have eternal life, and I will raise you to life on the last day. My flesh is the true food, and my blood is the true drink. If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me, and I am one with you."

Jesus becomes one with us in this meal that makes his sacrifice and his person present to us once more, each and every time we partake of the bread of eternal life.

The Eucharist is the same in-the-flesh reality of Jesus that his disciples encounter after his Resurrection, the same embodied Word that confronts Paul on the road to Damascus.

And the presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist transfigures the way we see the world. I become one with Jesus and my perspective changes.

When I see Central American children on the border of our country, I see Jesus, the stranger who needs my welcome.

When I see death-row inmates, I see Jesus, the prisoner, who does not despise his brothers who murder (or who stand falsely convicted) and takes upon himself their crimes, shame, and abandonment.

When I see Jews and Arabs, Russians and Ukrainians, Sunnis and Shiites, I see Jesus in his divided, warring brothers, whom he calls me to love as he has loved me.

When I see anyone revile or hate or deny God, I see Jesus, in those who are hungry and thirsty for something more; Jesus, who loves his enemies from the cross and asks his Father to forgive them. I know I must join his prayer that I, the sometime enemy of God, might also be forgiven.

The Eucharist helps me to see as God sees because by it my portion is Jesus.

If I see all things by Jesus Christ then I see all things by the Eucharist.

The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Mich. Follow him on Twitter: @kennethtanner .

Image: Attila JANDI / Shutterstock.com

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