Popular products on the market show a “before and after” picture to demonstrate the change that the product can have. 50 pounds fatter compared to a beautiful slender body. Old and wrinkled versus nice a smooth skin. Feet with bunions, corns, and ingrown toe nails, next to vibrant athletic feet ready for anything. Sort of like the two pictures presented in the Gospel.
The first picture shows the disciples behind locked doors. They were afraid, paranoid, wouldn’t dare to peek out the window. The second picture paints the disciples as super heroes—strong, courageous, invincible. The difference was the Holy Spirit. After the Holy Spirit was given to them, they never went back to the old condition of being afraid. The disciples shot out from behind locked doors and there was no shutting them up. They spoke to anyone who was willing to listen about their love for Jesus Christ. The disciples gave witness of the difference that Jesus had made in their lives. The words were not as important as their actions. “See how they love one another”, was what folks repeated every time they met “People of the Way”, which was what the Christians were called. Natural for families, cousins, best friends to look out for each other—but total strangers willing to share their food, money, possessions with one another was totally new. Praying for one’s enemies, forgiving those who hurt us, lending without expecting payment—radical ideas that showed hope for humanity, while making the local clergy very nervous. Many were listening to the People of the Way and stopped coming to the synagogue. The Christians were doing strange things. Rumors spread that they met secretly to eat flesh and drink blood.
Cannibalism was the accusation of the government. People who were caught preaching, or teaching, or engaging in the Christians ways were put to death. Crucifixion, dinner for the lions, or beheading were common ways of dealing with the Christians. The sharing of the Lord’s Supper was usually done in a private home or at the cemetery—the catacombs—where no one would have suspected. The disciples remembered how Jesus had changed the ancient rite of the Passover and told them, “Do this in memory of me.”
The Eucharist, the real presence, the promise of eternal life became the reason that Christians were willing to die for their faith. Consider that in our Country we have freedom to worship—to receive Holy Communion without being killed. Yet, because of freedom we might be tempted to take the Eucharist for granted. The Lord is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. We change, some times for the better, some times for the negative. The Eucharist is supposed to cause a change inside of us. People, especially those who do not believe, are supposed to notice—“See how much they love one another.” We listen to the Holy Word of God, we eat His Body, drink His Blood and then say bad words in the parking lot! Or we are criticize the person with inappropriate clothes. Or we are thinking about those with whom we are angry. What is wrong with this picture? Is there no change in the “before and after” look on our face? Ideally we enter into the Church with our problems, pains, mistakes and we are to leave in better shape—renewed by the Holy Spirit. Sent out, just like the first group—to forgive—to heal the world—starting with our family.
There is no greater gift to humanity than the Eucharist—the continued presence of Christ. May people know that we are Christians by our love.