Just about everyone agrees, even atheists, that Jesus Christ existed as a human person. He was a gifted teacher. He had special powers. He amassed a large following that caught the attention of both religious and secular authorities. Today we celebrate this truth — that the historical Jesus did in fact walk this earth as flesh and blood. Of course, Christians believe that Jesus was and is much more than a historical figure. We believe that in Christ God entered our world as a human, issued a new covenant through the sacrifice of his body and blood, and that we participate in this new life through the celebration of the Eucharist.
God saved the world by becoming human. More specifically, as we remember today, God saved the world by being broken and poured in the body and blood of Christ.
Now, if you’re like me, you spend a good deal of your time trying to avoid being broken and poured out. We want to be happy; we try to live as free of pain and suffering as possible. Not only that, we often try to appear to our friends and family as though we are spiritually whole and healthy. Yet we follow a Lord who showed us that the way to redemption is by embracing our humanity, not by escaping it, and by accepting our brokenness and frailty, not trying to hide it.Jesus’ body and blood were sacrificed so that all may live. Our own bodies and blood, our own brokenness, is not an obstacle to the experience of God but our means of experiencing God.
Jesus was a real human. We are called to be real humans as well, with all the limitations and frailties that this involves. This is part, at least, of what we celebrate each Sunday. Jesus’ body and blood were sacrificed so that all may live. Our own brokenness is not an obstacle to the experience of God but our means of experiencing God.
Even though I know, in my head, that it’s not true, I still find myself inclined to assume that I need to be perfect in order to be acceptable to God. I beat myself up for the mistakes I make — failures to love others, to be generous, hospitable and patient. My failure is not so much that I am mean and spiteful to others, but more that I forget to try to practice Christian virtues in my daily life.
Jesus is broken for our sakes, his blood poured out. We are called to follow him. God does not call us to suffer as an end in itself. Jesus did not suffer for no reason, but exchanged one good for a greater good. It was good for Jesus to be alive and healthy, better for all God’s kingdom for him to suffer, die and rise again.
The Body and Blood of Christ brings us freedom — the freedom of imperfection. We aren’t asked to live flawless, superhuman lives. We are promised the assurance of God’s presence in all circumstances, whether we suffer or thrive in the course of our journeys.
As always, Jesus is our example through his own human life and his physical body and blood. The path to redemption is still the same for us, through our humanity to the living Christ.
Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.