The year is 1519. Hernan Cortes sails across the Atlantic. He is a conquistador – a conqueror for Spain who arrived at the Yucatan Peninsula of what is now Mexico. When he senses that his men are being pulled in different directions, he scuttles his ships and sinks them off the coast. His men would either unite behind him or fend for themselves. When they were through conquering this new land, then they could build new ships and sail home. Cortes makes this bold move in other words to unite the will of his sailors and soldiers with his own ambition – which was the glory of Spain.
Happy Father’s Day! It is interesting that Father’s Day falls on the Feast of Corpus Christi. We celebrate these two feasts that have quite a bit to do with the will. Now, Cortes was a conqueror and an explorer, but we are also on the move – choosing our path through this life. The sequence we sang mentions that we are pilgrims. Both fatherhood and the Eucharist are integral to our journey as pilgrims and whether we make any progress.
Mothers and fathers are both vital to the family, but for mothers – some element of pilgrimage is natural. They carry their child in his/her temporary home everywhere for 9 months. Mothers are always doing their best to make wherever they stop more homey as they journey along the way. “This place needs a woman’s touch” is not just an expression. Women, historically, have gone a long way towards beautifying the various places – wherever the human race stops – to be a home away from home.
While women have cared for and beautified these pockets of material earth, Fathers, on the other hand were given the role of determining where they headed – where was the fertile land, what city had a job and. They have always had more of an option to remain with the family or not, and too often have sadly turned away from their duties to be husbands and fathers. Nonetheless, those men who have remained faithful have given direction to their families – in the very decision to remain and be faithful – in the very decision to unite their wills to the wellbeing of the family. While mothers have always been spiritual heart/cradle of the home, fathers are even charged with spiritual guidance /with being the head of the family. This was and is the will of God, and through uniting their will to the family, various fathers throughout the Bible (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), have pointed towards Jesus Himself – who perfectly unites His will to God.
Consider God the Father. He gave us, His children freedom to choose Him or go our own way. So that we might unite with Him freely. We have freedom so that we might love Him and one another.
The Eucharist is the food that is Love. It is the consummation of love. What does that mean? Well, love is a choice. It’s an act of the will. So, how we understand the Eucharist has to do with how we understand God’s will and our will. You know when we speak of the gifts of bread and wine and how they are changed in their substances to the Body and Blood of Jesus we speak of mystery. But it might be helpful to consider that it is not just that what was bread and what was wine is instantaneously gone and the Body and Blood of Jesus are instantaneously there without any real relationship. No, there must be a relationship between the bread and the body and the wine and the blood – because at least the appearances of bread and wine remain. The relationship is conversion. This bread actually becomes the Body of Jesus. This wine actually becomes the Blood of Jesus. They are no longer bread and wine, but nothing seems to be physically different. What is different is that the quiet invisible fire of the Holy Spirit is invisibly consuming the substance of the bread, and the substance of wine – and supplying instead the form of Christ’s Body and Blood instead. When does the process end? It doesn’t: this reality of the Holy Spirit converting this bread and wine continues until we receive these gifts…and then the Holy Spirit is supposed to continue this process on us. That we give Him ourselves and He makes us together into the Body of Christ. We don’t look any different, but our love is for Jesus and our will is united to His.
Remember the parable of the prodigal son and how we have all gone astray in our sins. It’s important to note what the Father does not do. He does not say to himself, “Well, my son’s not that bright and he’s probably run out of money. I’ll kill the fatted calf (which represents Christ) and send my servants with fatted calf jerky to feed him wherever he is in the midst of his waywardness. There has to be conformity of the will to be union and so the Father allows the prodigal son to get hungry. He longs to feed on the pods that the swine ate, until he comes to his senses and begins the walk back. Here’s another image: the way back home that the prodigal takes – while it may have been the same road, it is a different way in just the same way as I-44 Eastbound is a different way from I-44 Westbound. They lead to diametrically different locations. The prodigal son follows the Way. He enters into the Way that is Jesus Christ – into putting his will into union with the will of his father. This is the only attitude to safely consume the Eucharist. The Eucharist is famously known as “food for the journey” in other words, it is food for those who have returned to God in their spiritual lives – in their hearts – and continue to journey the rest of the way through the gradual offering back to God of their very bodies. If the Eucharist is given or taken to people going further away from God, great damage is done. For there is no union of will if we are heading in the opposite direction of God’s love. If we never become hungry for the truth of God’s holiness and the need to follow Him, if we are fed the Eucharist whichever road we travel in life, will we even have a chance to know Jesus Christ – to find the true path that is His love, His sacrifice? If we are told we can already eat of the fattened calf and have union having followed our own will, why ever return to the Father when it seems fine enough to stay with the pigs?
Hernan Cortes sank his ships and forced his men to follow him to live. Jesus did something far more radical. He called all of us to union with Himself by conforming our lives to His life. By examining our steps and receiving His Body when we are living in a way that puts our wills in His, we will find our way to the Father.