Our Lives Saved in the Eucharist

Our Lives Saved in the Eucharist

Homily for Fifth Sunday in Lent

March 17, 2024

Our Lives Saved in the Eucharist

Homily for Sunday, March 17, 2024
The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Photo: Jim Forest in New Skete, Communion of the Apostles
the iconographer is Sr. Patricia Reid, RSCJ

Here at Trinity Parish during the week our spaces host multiple twelve-step meetings:  there are several AA meetings, and recently we added an NA, or “Narcotics Anonymous,” meeting. Aside from offering the Eucharist every Sunday, our hosting of twelve-step meetings may be the most life-saving ministry that takes place here at Trinity Parish.  I can’t say how many times over the years, if I happen to be here early in the morning and see them,participants in the meetings have said to me, “You know, lives are saved in these rooms.”  Or once, when a man spoke to me alone out on the sidewalk after a meeting, “I want you to know that my life was saved in these rooms.”  

And, Yes, I did say that “aside from offering the Eucharist, our hosting of twelve-step meetings may be the most life-saving ministry that takes place here at Trinity Parish.”  And I want to return to the Eucharist and how it is life-saving, but first, the trajectory of our Lenten Sunday readings.  The readings over the past four Sundays have been used since the days of the early Church to help candidates prepare for Baptism at Easter.  These readings outline common steps on the journey of those who come to Christ.  Step one: three weeks ago Nicodemus came to Jesus by himself, under the cover of darkness with questions:  “How can anyone be born after having grown old?” he asked. “ Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”  Step two: two weeks ago, the woman came to Jesus at the well.  Now it is daylight, now others are present; and she, too, has questions:  “Sir… Where do you get that living water?” she asked.  “Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”  Step three:  last week, in the story of the healing of the man born blind, our eyes were opened to see “The Son of Man.”  “’And who is he, sir?’” the healed man asked.  “’Tell me, so that I may believe in him.  Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’”

Today, in the fourth and final of this series of readings in St. John’s Gospel, we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus.  The steps of a convert’s journey have gone from 1) private inquiry under the cover of darkness, to 2) open inquiry in broad daylight and in the presence of others,to 3) our eyes being opened to seeing and believing in Jesus, to 4) being raised from the dead.  John’s community,and also the early Church that chose these readings to help candidates prepare for Baptism, understood the journey of coming to Christ to be life-saving.  It is as though John and the framers of the lectionary are saying, “You know, Jesus saves lives in this place;” or, “I want you to know Jesus saved my life in this place.”

To some, it may sound a bit dramatic to say that “Jesus saves my life.” (We’re Episcopalians, and announcing that “Jesus saves my life” is not how we tend to speak.)  But Jesus’“saving our lives” need not be dramatic to be true.  If we are still here and coming to church, we probably have experienced (in the Pope’s words):

…the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives.  In our hearts we know that it is not the same to live without him; what we have come to realize[is that he] has helped us to live and [has] given us hope.  - Ev et Gaud, 121

If “in our hearts we know that it is not the same to live without him,” and if we are able to receive his love, “his closeness, his word and his strength” and the meaning he gives to our lives, perhaps we are perceiving that Jesus is “saving” us.

I’m almost hesitant to describe being “saved” in such undramatic terms in front of our Baptismal candidates, Jess and Amelia .  I’d rather say that, “As soon as you’re baptized, it’s amazing – everything changes!”  But that’s not quite true; but then neither is it untrue.  The process of our eyes being opened is life-long, and God tends to reveal God’s to us self only in increments.  And sometimes the increments may feel so small that being a Christian barely seems to make a difference in our lives at all.  

In fact, even though we the Baptized are “people of the water,” yet can it seem that our bones still “dry out,” as though God has abandoned us.  I have a hunch that probably all of us who are Baptized can attest to not only days or weeks but entire seasons or even years that we have spent in the“valley of dry bones.”  Since Baptism cannot be repeated and we cannot “re-hydrate” our “dry bones” again with the water of Baptism, Jesus provides a way in which life repeatedly, again and again, can come and enter into us, a way in which life can come and “save”us.  

The sacrament of Baptism, the Church’s rite of initiation, initiates us into our sacred mysteries, the Holy Eucharist.  It is in the Holy Eucharist that Jesus repeatedly, again and again, offers us life.  He offers us his life, his own body and blood. For when we are baptized – once we have been “sealed with the Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever” –  the new life born within us needs to feed. And – kind of like in the process of trophallaxis in which newly-hatched bees are fed by the “nurse bees” mouth to mouth, given not only food and sustenance but in that food and sustenance the “code” that teaches them who they are, which is their hive, and how they are to live as a bee – so does Jesus after we are Baptized give to us of his very being not only sustenance but also the “code” that continually teaches us who we are, which is our“hive,” and how we are to live as Christians. As much as you are able every Sunday after your Baptism, I hope that you, Jess and Amelia – and I hope that all of us who are Baptized – will gather for the Eucharist, to receive from Christ himself of Christ himself, the food that not only sustains but also communicates who we are, whose we are, and how we are to live as followers of Jesus.

So, yes, “Lives are saved in this place.”  Lives are saved not only in the multiple twelve-step meetings that take place here at Trinity during the week, but they are saved every Sunday as Jesus, bit by bit, offers himself in the Eucharist.  His saving of us, and our conversion and change, may be so gradual that we may not always notice.  But once his life has taken hold in us in Baptism, and as we are faithful in attending to and nurturing that life in the Eucharist, we will come to an ever-deeper knowledge of who we are, of whose we are, and how we are to live as his disciples.  And we will come to know that there is nothing more satisfying to the human heart, and nothing more life-giving, than is to follow Jesus as his disciple.


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