Recently, Pope Francis offered these words during his Sunday Angelus address.
Every Sunday we go to Mass, we celebrate the Eucharist together and the Eucharist is like the ‘burning bush’ in which the Trinity humbly dwells and communicates itself: this is why the Church has placed the feast of the Body of the Lord after that of the Trinity.
The Holy Father has given us some wonderful images to reflect upon on this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (traditionally known as Corpus Christi).
If we look to the third chapter of Exodus (verses 1-6) we read of Moses’ encounter with God revealed in the burning bush.
Meanwhile Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock beyond the wilderness, he came to the mountain of God, Horeb. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. So Moses decided, “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush; “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” God said: “Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground!” “I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
We are told that Moses wonders why the bush is not consumed and only after he decides to “turn aside and look” does God speak to him. God waits for the moment when we are ready for him to speak to us. We, for our part, must learn how to “turn aside” from all that distracts us, from the illusions, sad logic and passing fancies of our world in order to then be ready to encounter God. God is present and is waiting to reveal himself if we just turn aside to look. In the Eucharist – celebrated on the altar, reserved in the tabernacle – the fullness of Christ is present. On every altar during the celebration of the Eucharist and in every tabernacle we can say that the burning bush is present waiting for us to just turn aside and look.
The bush was not consumed. God is not opposed to creation nor limited as creation is limited. The presence of God does not negate my freedom nor does it negate my possibility. God is not simply another actor within creation whose very presence necessarily limits my own space. God is rather the source of all creation, the one who is pure love and who is non-competitive with his creation. Christ is fully present within the Eucharist. The bread and wine truly becomes the body and blood of Christ yet it is neither consumed nor lost. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we also are neither consumed nor lost nor oppressed; rather we are transformed into the very thing which we consume. Through the presence of God, we are fulfilled.
“Remove your sandals from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy ground!” The Eucharist is holy. This is why we reverence it, adore it, place it in a special place of reservation and come before it in prayer. Our sandals are what carry us through our day-in and day-out lives. Our sandals are the mundane and profane trappings of life (profane not in the sense of “anti-sacred” but rather in the sense of common and ordinary). We are meant to remove our sandals, we are meant for more than just the ordinary! We are meant for relationship with God! In the Eucharist we meet Christ, we know him and we receive him. The fullest form of friendship and communion is given to us in the Eucharist.
“I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Just as we receive Christ in the Eucharist so do we regain ourselves. Moses had forgotten who he was, God remembered for him. “I am the God of your father…” Life can wear down, confuse and distract. We need food for the journey. We need help remembering who we are. In receiving the Eucharist we are reminded again of who we are – a child of God, beloved of the Father, brother and sister to Christ our Lord! And once we encounter God and remember who we are then we are ready for mission in our world. Moses needed to know who he was before he could ever go before Pharaoh. The same is true for us. Before the pharaohs of our world (violence, sin, greed and all the sad logics that seek to divide and oppress life) we need to be constantly reminded of who we are, who our brothers and sisters are and who our Father is.
Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn. 6:51)
“…the Eucharist is like the ‘burning bush’ in which the Trinity humbly dwells and communicates itself.”