April 19, 2018
Readings: Thursday of the Third Week of Easter: Acts 8:26-40, John 6:44-51
The following is a summary of the homily I delivered at our all-school Mass at Bishop Chatard yesterday:
Doing some reading the other day, I came across this thoughtful reflection: God intends us to be walking tabernacles for Christ. I really liked that image. We have a tabernacle at church, in which the Real Presence of Christ is housed. Unused Eucharist is stored there until the next time we celebrate Mass, at which time it is withdrawn and distributed as needed.
So, that is the tabernacle that is used at our weekly celebration of Mass. What about in-between Masses? How is Christ “distributed” the rest of the week? By us – we are walking tabernacles, distributing Christ to those in need.
Philip gives us an example in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. He came alongside a carriage and saw a eunuch struggling to understand scripture. He could have ignored it – it can be uncomfortable to share Christ. But he accepted the invitation to climb into the carriage. He not only shared his knowledge of scripture, but ultimately ended up baptizing the eunuch.
It is not surprising that it is Philip who is highlighted in the reading. It was Philip who had approached Jesus prior to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. It was Philip who said to Jesus, “These people are hungry and need to be fed.” To which Jesus responded, “Them them yourself.”
Philip understood. Jesus did not just mean to feed them that day, but implied that Philip must nourish others always, feed them spiritually. Philip understood his role as a walking tabernacle.
If you are like me, an introvert at heart, you likely find this role challenging. Here are a few examples of my own “distribution of Christ.”
I was on a plane, hoping no one would sit next to me, and if someone did sit next to me, hoping he or she would not talk to me. I was reading a book, which happened to be one about the importance of the Eucharist. Someone did sit next to me, and sure enough, he asked me about the book.
I could have given a curt answer and returned to my reading. However, I sensed something in the question, so I opened my tabernacle. We had a two-hour long conversation about our faith lives, our beliefs, and the role of Jesus Christ in our lives. Although we were of different faith traditions, it was a beautiful conversation. Each of us discovered we had more in common with one another than we had differences when it came to our faith.
One of the first times I worked with the homeless, a disheveled cocaine addict approached me and extended his filthy, gnarled hands toward me and asked me to pray for him. I wanted to run – this was SOOOO far our of my comfort zone. But I sensed a need and opened my tabernacle. I held his hands and prayed for him, then cried as he prayed for me.
After Mass one Sunday, a woman gave me a hug of greeting. I sensed something in the hug; something was bothering her. I could have, and probably often have in the course of my life, disregarded it and moved on. Instead, I opened my tabernacle. I asked her if she was OK. She said, “No” and we went and sat for nearly an hour. She had lost her job and her marriage was a mess. I spent time with her, listened to her, and prayed for her.
None of these examples are unique to me. I am sure they happen to you all the time. The question is, how do you respond?
Do you disregard the signs when you see someone in need? Do you simply hope someone else will come along to help? Do you avoid the situation altogether?
Opportunities to “distribute” Jesus to others are put before us regularly – not only in chance encounters with strangers, but in our interactions with family, friends, and classmates. To live out the gospel, to feed them ourselves, we must embrace those opportunities.
God intends us to be walking tabernacles.