Readings: Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48
He said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (Luke 24:36b-37) Today we are invited to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Are you open to this encounter of the flesh and blood of Jesus? Then, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” (John 20:27)
To non-believers, touching the open wounds of a brutally murdered man would be revolting, much more unthinkable is eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Perhaps this is why “only 30 percent of those surveyed believe they are actually receiving the Body and Blood, Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.” (Gallup Pole quoted by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan – May 1995 issue of The People of God)
Other than the repulsive thought of eating human flesh, is there another reason we fail to believe this basic tenant of our faith? Some say that we have a difficulty in embracing the true Presence in the Eucharist due to our inability of being truly present to one another. Has the lure of virtual reality reduced our ability to be present in the moment? Has Facebook “friends” devalued direct interaction in intimate relationships? Perhaps this dilemma began much earlier in our history with the rise in popularity of radio in the 1920’s and television in the 1950’s. With the advent of communication technology the necessity of the local community to come together to play their own music, sing their own songs, and dance with each other – began to disappear.
As a result, in society today, there is much less human contact with means that we are getting much less practice in being really present. If you don’t believe me go to where people gather and see how many people you can find that are truly interacting; touching, and being present to each other. How many do you see on their smartphones, wearing headphones, or staring at a computer screen? I am sad to admit that I am as guilty of this disease as anyone… and it is a disease. Psychologists tell us it is a chemical addiction of the brain. When we get a like on Facebook the brain releases the same endorphins as are released when we use a narcotic painkiller or take a hit on of joint. So if you wonder why we are so ready to share the most intimate details of our lives on social media, the reason is simply the hit of endorphins we get as a payoff. Too bad we don’t turn off our phones and turn and share intimacy with another human being that we love, in whom we trust, and with whom we share our lives – like a spouse, parent, or child.
As a result, we are facing a crisis of what is called “skin hunger,” and it has real consequences. More Americans live alone than ever before. I see this in the elderly I visit as part of my duties at the Justa Center (outreach to elderly homeless persons). One in four Americans is reported as not having a single person to talk about important issues. Often when I visit one of our newly housed clients I will find that, even though they no longer suffer hunger, they are starved for attention, and we end of sharing quite a lot given that I don’t know them very well. Just as a lack of food, water, and rest have their detrimental effects, so too does the lack of affection. One study showed that a lack of affection results in more sadness, fear, and loneliness; and, not surprisingly, a rise of depression and stress. My experience with visiting our newly housed clients bears this out. Even if there is not a direct connection between skin hunger and these maladies, it seems like they suffer more from depression and stress than others who have close family and friends.
It is no wonder that when the disciples were feeling lost and abandoned by their beloved leader, He came to visit them. They had isolated themselves due to fear and, even as a close-knit group, felt alone in their sadness. He comes and shares with them his true physical presence and even shares a bit of food. This recalls the meal they shared three days earlier at the Passover. And just like 2000 years ago when He said “do this in memory of me,” we will do it again today. “…do not be unbelieving, but believe!”
The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist:
Basic Questions and Answers