I sit tonight a tad melancholy. Squabbles amongst family members have that effect on me, especially when there's no easy solution on the horizon. Tis not fun. Not fun at all.
Which makes reading The Anchoress tonight all the more meaningful:
After Mass this evening Buster and I headed out for a quick hamburger and somehow the discussion came up about how the Holy Eucharist is sometimes accepted at Mass by someone only to remain unconsumed and spirited out of the church for use in various - always nefarious - ways.
“How exactly,” Buster asked me. “I’ve read that the Eucharist has been stolen for use in black masses - but what do they do with it, actually?”
I don’t like talking about this stuff, but I related a little - that some have put the Consecrated Host upon an “altar” and stabbed it, or sliced it, so as to “stab” Christ. “They believe, as we do, that the Eucharist is the actual, physical Presence, the Body and Blood of Christ,” I explained. “That’s why Wonder Bread and Grape Juice won’t do. They want the Consecrated Host - they know what it is. Sometimes the desecrations can be tearing it up and stomping on it, or doing disgusting things to it. And sometimes the Host is even abused sexually. Just as sexual abuse or rape is about power and control and domination, someone who sexually abuses a Host, sees it as controling and dominating Christ.”
“But, it’s a Gift,” Buster said, “So they only cheat and hurt themselves.”
I was a little confused. “What do you mean, which is the Gift, the Holy Eucharist, or sexuality?”
“Both,” he said. “They’re both gifts, but I’m talking about the Gift of the Body of Christ. Christ gave himself to us - freely - of his own free will. A Gift freely given. If someone takes the Gift and spits on it or whatever - they’re only destroying what was given to them, they are destroying what is “theirs.” They don’t in any way destroy the Giver of the Gift, or lessen the Giver…OR the Gift. So they have no power over it, they can’t dominate it. All they can do is destroy themselves within themselves.”
“Yes,” I agreed. If I freely give you a car, and you decide to smash it up, you’ve lost out, not me. If I give you my life, and you are unappreciative, it doesn’t lessen what I have done, but reveals the void within you.”
“That’s why even during the Passion of Christ, those who wanted Jesus dead could not have victory over him,” Buster mused, picking up on today’s Gospel reading. “So, no matter how they mistreated Him or misjudged Him, or tortured Him…He had consented to it. And so they lost, and He won.” The Power was always His.”
“Right,” I said, wondering what I was thinking about when I was 16 years old.
I can guarantee you I wasn't thinking about these things at 16.
Yet 30 years later, I wonder often at what it is that we as adults do to "spit or whatever" on Christ.
He who in effect has defined forgiveness and who asks His followers to forgive as God the Father has forgiven us through His Son, is spat upon (or whatever) time and again when we refuse to forgive those who've trespassed against us.
It's in that context that Buster's words are especially poignant to me tonight. When we refuse to forgive, we hurt not the person left unforgiven, but ourselves. And as he puts it, we destroy ourselves within ourselves.
We can (and do time and again) define what Christianity is all about in many different ways. Some focus on salvation. Others on social justice. I've been focusing tonight on what I think to be at the center of our walk with Jesus Christ.
It's forgiveness. His forgiving us. Our forgiving others. There really is nothing more to it. I mean there is, but doesn't it all come back to forgiveness? I think so. Which makes it rather important.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
-- Lewis B. Smedes
Here's hoping freedom comes to those I love dearly.