Matthew 5:12a; Corpus Christi Sunday
One time, I walked into the classroom where the graduating class for that year was waiting. Their biggest oral exam was coming up and their teachers took turns reviewing them for the different subjects. My topic was the Holy Spirit and Grace. So, I asked: “Okay, for starters, tell me: how do you envision the Holy Spirit?” Blank stares. “I mean, what does Spirit look like to you? How do you imagine Spirit?” I knew what they were thinking. “He’s Spirit. How can Spirit look like anything?” So, I said, “You can envision the spirit of your dear departed, right? The spirit of your lola or mom or even your favorite saints. So, how do you envision the Holy Spirit?” Silence. Either they didn’t want to risk an answer or they thought my question was absurd. So, I repeated myself: “What does Spirit look like when you pray to him? How do you envision, visualize him?” Noticing that I wasn’t about to move on before I got an answer, a hand finally came up very slowly. “Father, dove?” Sigh. A graduating class of theology envisions the Holy Spirit as a bird. None of them envisioned the Spirit in the image and likeness of Jesus. Not one. “You should get your tuition back,” I told them. And we laughed.
But it’s not just them, right, sisters and brothers? Not only do we have difficulty envisioning Spirit in the image and likeness of Jesus, we have even more difficulty envisioning Jesus today as having a body, a corpus, Jesus as bodily. Part of us thinks, now that Jesus is Risen, well then, he’s over and done with his body, and being bodily. But what if I tell you that Jesus is still both spirit and body today, glorified body? That he is still Incarnate Son of God? What if I tell you that Jesus is not just divine today, he is still also human? I know there’s some part of you that’ll recoil and say, “Oh, no, really, Father? Jesus is still human, too? And body, too—not just divine? Not just spirit?” Yes. He’s still both human and divine, still both spirit and glorified body. That’s not my invention. We profess that as our Faith.
Thankfully, we have this other side of us that wants to be very physical, very human with Jesus. We kiss our Crucifixes. We love Jesus as a child, Santo Niño, even when we know he’s no longer one. We protect the consecrated host and tell the kids: “Wag mong ngunguyain ang hostia, Body of Christ yan!” We attribute human emotions to Jesus when we (and yaya) tell the kids: “Don’t be malikot, Jeesoos will git inggry! Jeesoos is sad when you don’t obey mommy. Jeesoos is happy when you pray.” We pray to the Sacred Heart. We believe he has a heart, which is as human and as bodily as we can envision Jesus to be. So, some part of us does commit to the humanity and bodiliness of Jesus today. But still, we think that his humanity and bodiliness are just symbolic. They’re just, well, the memory of what he was back when he was on earth. This is why, when I ask a graduating class of theology how they envision the Holy Spirit, they’d rather think of a bird than a Person, afraid they might be diminishing Jesus if they ever believed that he’s still as human and gloriously bodily today as he is divine and spirit. Devoted so much to Jesus as divine, we often dehumanize him. Devoted so much to Jesus as Spirit, we often disembody him. It seems that we only remember Jesus “was” human and bodily. For many Catholics, the Incarnation seems to have ended in the Resurrection, as though “incarnate” is only of earth and “resurrected” is only of “heaven,” and never again the twain shall meet. Well, no. That’s not what we believe.
I’m happy to say, though, that when Jesus says, “Take and eat my body. Take and drink my blood,” we don’t feel any horror. If you really think about it, it’s very shocking, even cannibalistic! “Eat my body, drink my blood”?! But somehow, we know that when the Lord offers us his body and blood, he means, “Take me, receive me. This is myself, the whole of me, my total self. Buung-buo kong alay sa inyo ang buo kong pagkatao,” to be our life, to be the very meaning of our life. And you and I, we get that. We understand that. Because that’s exactly what we do for our loved ones. We give not only what we have, we give all we are, so that our children are well fed and schooled, healthy and comfortable, so that our friends are happy and fulfilled and feel important, so that we all become good, loving, God-fearing people. We offer ourselves to our beloved all the time, it’s already second nature to us, and our total self: katawan at dugo, pawis at luha, puso at kaluluwa, na minsan parang maubusan tayo, pero tuloy pa rin hanggang mamatay tayo sa pagod. Buong pagkatao nating alay ang sarili alang-alang sa ikabubuhay ng ating mga minamahal. So, see, sisters and brothers, our self-giving is not a disembodied spirit, no. This self-outpouring for our beloved has a face. It has hands and feet. It has a voice, breath. It has a heartbeat: ours. So, if our self-giving to our beloved is not disembodied, why are we still often two minds about Jesus being both divine and human, about Jesus being both spirit and body in his self-giving to us today? When you and I know that when we truly love, we don’t love half-heartedly, with only half of ourselves?
Sisters and brothers, the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ isn’t merely the “anniversary of the Mass.” Baliktad. The Mass is a constant iteration and recapitulation of Jesus forever human as well as divine, forever glorified body and blood as well as Spirit. Jesus is relentless, walang pagmamaliw, in offering his total Self to us. He wants to be the nourishment for our hunger, the comfort in our grief. He wants to be the presence in our solitude, the hand we can hold, the shoulder we can cry on, the heart that sees and hears everything we say and do, the fulfillment of our dreams. Jesus is relentlessly self-giving, self-outpouring.
But you know what, sisters and brothers, maybe that’s why we couldn’t bear think of our Lord as still human and bodily. Because, indeed he is “self-less.” He does nothing for himself. Everything he is and does is for us. You can almost hear our Savior say, “In giving my body and blood to you, I want to be your everything because you are everything to me.”
*image from the Internet