Celebrating the Presence of Jesus
Where is Jesus in this Church?
One time while on vacation, I attended Mass at Holy Angels Church in Fr. Lauderdale. When I walked into the Church I was struck by a strange sense of alienation. As people entered the building, it was as if they were entering a museum or a library. Everyone was quiet, not even whispering a hello. It was rather like being here at St. Mary's. They were very attentive to the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, but unaware of his presence in one another. It was obvious to me that something was wrong--something was missing. I could not quite put my finger on it until the other day. I came across the following story:
A master gave a special dinner once a month and always invited his friends. It so happened that, on one occasion, a few of his closest friends were sick and unable to attend the feast.
The master wanted to save part of the celebration for his friends. So he took a bottle of his best wine from the table and put it away in a special box. That way he would have it when his friends arrived.
The master then went to his servant and told him, "Please make sure you respect what is in this box because what is in there has a special purpose for our guests." The servant was confused but respected the wishes of his master by bowing to the box every time he passed it.
Not long after, the master died but the meals continued. The servant would tell all the guests of the master's wishes: that they, like he, were to respect the special box.
So the meals began to grow more and more serious. Instead of celebrating being together as friends, they began to eat in silence and to gaze in respect at the box.
Suddenly it struck me. We have become so respectful of the box in this building, what we call a tabernacle, that we have lost sight of its origin and meaning. When Jesus gathered his friends for Eucharist, it was for celebration. Celebration is the Gospel context of Eucharist. But when we gather here, there is little sense of celebration. Many of us do not speak to one another or even sit together. Many more do not sing or pray aloud and some do not even share the sign of peace. What is so special about the presence of Jesus if he does not effect a change in us; if he does not help to grow together in love and community?
Perhaps we would do well to remember that without the celebration there is no tabernacle. Jesus can be present in the tabernacle only because he was first present in our gathering. Let us celebrate being together by actively participating in this liturgy. Let us sing and shout and dance. Let us embrace one another in peace. Let us celebrate Jesus' presence among us.