While stood in the entrance to Corpus (my college) today, I overhead a conversation of two people who had been at the Mass in the College Chapel earlier on. A teenage boy turned to his mum (who had clearly been in the one who’d encouraged the family into Chapel) and said: ‘Mum, I don’t really understand all the fuss about Jesus, he was kind and I like his message, but would he really want all this fuss?’ The mum paused for a moment and said, ‘Well, he doesn’t need the fuss but he’s God and I need to remember that. Let’s go to Fitzbillies’. And they left.
It reminded me, at a key moment (but that’s another story) how extraordinary the proclamation of our faith is – a statement I seem to make in every post of this blog! What the Church proclaims, by its very existence and especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, is that Jesus Christ is God – one person of the eternal Trinity accepted a human nature and wrought our salvation. What we’re saying is that that aspect of God’s life which, from all eternity, is being poured out in love is captured for a moment in one life in history. In this life from start to finish is as much God as humanity can hold – the outpouring of God’s life and the joyful response of humanity is there in one uninterrupted life. While we can never understand what this life is like from the inside, because it is the unique life of Christ, we contemplate the mystery and long to share in it. ‘He’s God… let’s go to Fitzbillies’ said the woman, and how wonderful this is! In Christ we see such a concentration of the divine life that the whole of history just turns on its axis and everything changes – even a trip to Fitzbillies.
Yet, not surprisingly, but frighteningly, because this life is so full of the recklessness of God’s love – the people around it hate it. The Gospel is full of stories of people embarrassed and afraid and hateful in the presence of the divine life in human shape. Think of Luke 4.28-29:
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.
When the reckless love of God draws near to people, they push back against it, push right over the cliff, they push him right over the cliff edge on the Cross and, as they look down into the abyss, a voice behind them says ‘peace be with you!’
That is the wonder and the miracle of God’s shameless, overflowing, reckless love for humanity, found in the history of Jesus of Nazareth and in the life of the community which has followed him through time. This is all that the mother said and it is world changing. In the Holy Eucharist, this eternal life is poured out afresh for us on the altar and Christ feeds us with his own life. This is the mystery at the heart of God, the mystery at the heart of the Church and, ultimately, the mystery at the heart of all creation. God lives a human life so that humans can share in the life of God!
Now, off to Fitzbillies.