Do This In Memory of Me
The Christian religion was known to its original followers as The Way. It is the way of a good life, the way of peace and justice, the way of mercy and compassion, the way to happiness, the way to Heaven. Mostly, though, it is The Way because we follow Jesus, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It is worth thinking about this on Father’s Day, especially when it falls on Corpus Christi.
The name The Way helps us to recognize that we are on a journey from earthly life to life with God in the very heart of the Trinity. Baptism set us on this journey of faith, freeing us from sin and making us one with Christ and His Church by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. It is a life-long journey that requires discipline (hence, the word “disciple”) in order to grow in virtue. It is a journey that may take us places we never expected to go, but we hoist our sails and go where the breath of the Spirit carries us.
On The Way, we need sustenance and companionship, don’t we? Around the world and throughout history, Christians have risked everything to fulfill Jesus’ command at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of Me” (Luke 22:19). They have risked arrest, kidnapping, torture, and have even given their lives to be faithful to Christ. To this day, Christians are being shot dead or having their throats slit just for practicing their faith, and Christian schools and churches are destroyed by our enemies. We are in a new age of martyrs. What is it that compels them? Why do they risk everything to practice their faith? It seems to me that it is nothing less than belief that Jesus Christ is really present in the Eucharist. When we receive Communion, we receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Christ brings our human nature into the heart of God, promising eternal life with God:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:53-58).
At every Mass, we have all the companionship and sustenance we need for the journey. And yet, don’t we take it for granted in our relatively peaceful country? We put nothing at risk by going to Mass here, except maybe missing a soccer practice or an hour of sleep. Instead of gratitude, we sometimes (or habitually) grumble about the priest, the homily, the music, or the longer-than-expected service. We show up late and we leave early (so we don’t get stuck in the parking lot). We dress up for a dinner date better than we dress for dinner with Lord in many cases, don’t we? I’m not pointing fingers–if I did, I’d have to point at myself first. I have been guilty of all of the above. It’s a sign of how much I am able to take Mass and the Eucharist for granted. The martyrs of our day give us a wake up call! They might just be the best reminder of how valuable this Blessed Sacrament is.
We are on The Way to the Father. It may sometimes be a Way of the Cross. Nonetheless, good fathers strengthen us to carry the crosses we must bear. They not only give life, but they nourish that life with fidelity and love. “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:9-11). And the best gift our heavenly Father gives is nothing less than the Bread from Heaven, which is a share in divine life and love. The martyrs remind us that this love is worth dying for. The Gospel reminds us that death is not the end of the journey.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, the foster fathers and adoptive fathers, those who play the role of father when a father has died or is otherwise absent, and to all those who would love to be dads but have not been given that call and instead give life through their work and ministry, their role modeling and advocacy, and all the sacrifices they make for love of others. Happy Father’s Day to those who have finished their journey already and whom we hope to see again in Heaven, when we finish our journey along The Way.