Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ordinary Time Sunday 20

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him.

Sometimes the Christian life is called discipleship. It is as if we are one of the twelve, or one of the very many more who followed Jesus around in Palestine and learned from him. Or sometimes, the Christian life is called 'the imitation of Christ' - there is a very famous book by this very title - and so it seems that we should try to copy what Christ did, live as he lived. As some Christians will tell you, when faced with a moral decision, we should ask the question "What would Jesus do?" Indeed, you can even get badges and car stickers that have the letters WWJD, just to make the point.

Well, these ideas are all very worthy, but I'm afraid there is something not quite right about them, or at least, not quite complete. It is not catholic teaching. It does not match up to today's gospel.

The idea of the Christian life being about following, or even imitating (though that is a little better) is that it seems it is all about effort. You know, like the school report which says 'Must try harder'. The Christian life, it seems, is about how hard I work at it, how much effort I put into it, how well I follow, or copy. Just do that little bit more, and - so it might seem - I will be perfect... And if I manage to do that, who should be praised?

Ah! We can see the fault in this approach.

We who receive Christ's body and blood do so, so that we may live in him and he may live in us. The Christian life is not about effort and toil, but about the indwelling of Christ, the working out of the grace of God. To live as people transformed by the eucharist, filled with life with this spiritual food, we have only to let Christ dwell in us and live in us. How can I live like a disciple? - the world has changed so much in two thousand years. How can I copy what Christ did? - my background and my circumstances are so different from his.

Yet I can allow Christ to live in me. I can allow my words and actions be filled with his wisdom and compassion. I can let his love shine on others though what I think and do and say.

Or not.

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