Material Relationship with Jesus
by Fr. Justin Ramos, O.Praem.
“Celebrating the most sacred day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh…” This prayer, the special communicantes for Easter and its Octave used in the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, emphasizes Christ’s resurrected material flesh. The sacred liturgy points us to the importance of Christ’s truly resurrected body. His flesh is something material not merely spiritual. Because Christ rose bodily from the dead, He calls us not just to a spiritual relationship with Him, but also to a physical or material relationship.
We know well that our Lord calls us to a spiritual relationship: by the gift of faith, by accepting Him as Lord and Savior, by our daily prayers. But now especially during the Easter season, we see that our relationship to our Lord and Savior takes on an even greater completeness. Our Lord Who made us both material and spiritual, body and soul, wants us to experience Him both materially and spiritually. In addition to our spiritual relationship with Christ, there is a material, physical, bodily dimension.
After rising from the dead, the Lord shows the Apostles His five wounds, material realities—hands, feet, and side—which we can see with our bodily eyes and touch with our own hands. He says to Thomas, “Bring your hand and feel the place of the nails.” In the Gospel, our Lord insists that He is not a disembodied spirit. “Touch Me and see… A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you can see I have.” Flesh and bones are material realities that He does not spurn even after He has risen gloriously. Then He takes material food, a piece of baked fish, and eats it in front of them. We hear that our Lord prepares a meal, a breakfast for the apostles on the shore of the sea.
Our Lord does all of this with a purpose. He wants us to experience a physical union with Him, just like we would with anyone we love. And He does this in a specific way—a way we enjoy another’s presence—specifically through a meal. “Having His body and blood in our members.”
Yes, we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior—but that has to include physically accepting Him. “Unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man you shall not have life within you.”
C.S. Lewis put it this way: “God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.”
So, our relationship to our blessed Lord includes a physical dimension. Something similar applies to our relationship with our fellowmen, especially our fellow Christians. In the Acts of the Apostles we read, “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they would distribute to each according to need.”
Some people have commented to me that we priests should never talk about money; we should just stick to spiritual things. My response is that we would never have to mention money if everyone followed the example of the early Christians.
Giving of our resources is a significant part of our relationship with Christ and with each other, just as our physical presence at Mass is important to God. Going for a walk and thinking beautiful thoughts is wonderful, but it can never replace physical presence. We not only have a spiritual relationship to each other, but also a material one. This is especially important for us who have committed ourselves to living community life. Our physical presence and participation at Mass, the Divine Office, common meals, recreation, etc., are essential.
Our death is not just the separation of our body and soul. It is like a seed that has to die in order to bloom. It looks forward to the Resurrection. During this season of Easter, we see that the Risen Lord insists on His physical reality. And He brings us into a material relationship with Him by receiving His body and blood. Likewise, we have a material relationship with each other, which we express by our physical presence at community functions. Our material existence is good and one day will share in the glory of the resurrected body of Christ. God does not spurn anything He has made. He created it, and so it is good.
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