ColumnsNaming Grace

Flesh for the life of the world

The POD (portable moving container) pulled up, ready to be emptied. We excitedly unlocked chains and swung doors open. It was packed to the gills. Like mining for gold, we dug in deep, dragging out box after box, lugging out bed frames, bolts, dressers and lawn tools. Once everything was unloaded into the garage, we slumped on piled boxes to recover as we surveyed the work ahead. Just then, eight Xavier High School students arrived, smiles on their faces, ready for the challenge. They, at that moment, were mercy itself — flesh for the life of our family!

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Eucharist as “flesh for the life of the world.” Yes, flesh — not just great ideas or good thoughts, but flesh — for the life of the world. “Flesh of my flesh” describes new life in the image of another. Paul encourages us: “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” Each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are being formed in the image of God to serve as a living sacrifice — flesh for the life of the world. We are to make Christ present in each moment.

According to C. S. Lewis, “Every Christian is to be a little Christ.” In “The Broken Way,” Ann Voskamp expounds, “The term Christian means exactly that — ‘a little Christ’ … and that ending in the original Greek — ianos — it means to be patterned after something.” For us as Christians, that something is the cross, sacrificial love revealing the self-emptying of Christ — his flesh given for us. Some Christians give the ultimate sacrifice through martyrdom, while most disciples pour out their lives, day in and day out, in the smallest sacrifices. Echoing Saint Mother Teresa, Voskamp concludes: “You do something great with your life when you do all the small things with His great love.”

The image of Jesus as flesh for the world may best describe God’s sacrificial love — grace — in the domestic church. As parents/grandparents, we choose our words wisely to teach, guide, correct and advise, but much of our love pours forth in the flesh: the mama nursing her infant in the dark of night, the father wrestling with his kids after a hard day, the parent playing with the children though exhausted. Monks grow in sanctity by rising for prayer throughout the night while parents grow in holiness by kneeling at the bedside of a frightened or feverish child. We are to give our lives over to the familiar faces in our home. We are to serve those in need.

Though it may seem we are “doing” for others, our acts of sacrificial love are conforming us to Christ, which is the place of genuine and eternal joy.

The Xavier students were Jesus in the flesh — little Christs — as they hauled ­boxes and assembled shelves, all with a cheerful attitude! God creates miracles through the flesh: the Incarnation, married love, babies, hugs, handshakes, service and the Eucharist. Each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are called forth to serve as a living sacrifice — in the flesh — for our families, our communities and our world! Now, that’s good news!

What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice” to you?

How will you teach your children to be imitators of Christ?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding parents in their vital task as “first preachers” of the good news in the domestic church — the church of the home.