Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We’ll be reading from the prophet Jeremiah this week and all across the next three weeks.
One of the patterns of Jeremiah’s prophetic message was a contrast between the basic elements of infidelity in Israel — both in worship and in morality — and a call to return to fidelity in every aspect of the nation’s life.
One way to describe the central contrast between fidelity and infidelity in our own time is with these two phrases: 1) This is my body, given for you. 2) This is your body, taken for me.
“This is my body, given for you” is the central dynamic of the Christian life. It’s rooted in the example of Jesus, both in the institution of the Eucharist and in the sacrifice of the cross. Every good marriage follows this pattern. Every fruitful priesthood is built on this pattern. A Christian conception of work and parenting is rooted in this pattern of self-gift.
“This is your body, taken for me” is the central dynamic of the lure of sin. Abortion is aptly described by this pattern. Slavery is aptly described by this pattern. Pornography and every form of lust is aptly described by this pattern.
In saying these things, I have no interest in being a “culture warrior.” My interest is solely in being a shepherd of souls. And as a shepherd of souls I want to say this: There is a Christian pattern of living, it’s possible to deviate from that pattern and the consequences of deviating from that pattern are serious — eternal, even.
As a shepherd of souls, I also want to encourage this: Let’s use these two patterns to assess our daily words and deeds. All day, every day, we’re pulled in the direction of these two patterns: “This is my body given for you” or “this is your body taken for me.” All day, every day, every married couple is pulled in these two directions. All day, every day, every priest is pulled in these two directions. All day, every day, every one of us is pulled in these two directions as we carry out our daily work and relationships.
Because we live in a fallen world, “this is your body taken for me” is easier to choose — it requires less energy at the start. But this pattern is contrary to who God is, and contrary to who we are as creatures who bear God’s image and likeness. That’s why everything begins to fall apart when we follow this path.
Because of our fallen nature, “this is my body given for you” is harder to choose — it requires more energy at the start. But God revealed Himself in the Eucharist and on the Cross, and that’s the God whose image we bear. Therefore this pattern is also more satisfying: If it requires more energy to choose, it also gives more energy back.
“They have forsaken me, the source of living waters; they have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.” This was God’s lament, spoken through Jeremiah 2,600 years ago. When we make “this is my body, given for you” the pattern of our lives, we choose to live close to the source of living waters, and our life becomes a gift to others. When we make “this is your body, taken for me” the pattern of our lives, we fashion broken cisterns that hold no water, and form a culture of selfishness.
Let’s learn from salvation history and from our own experience. Let’s model our lives on the life of Jesus: “This is my body, given for you.”