Pondering Divine Mercy Sunday (and terms like mercy & forgiveness, and the other key element, hearing the cock-crow) I am brought back to a favorite Gil Bailie session, Entering the Biblical Story at the Eucharistic Table . (Make sure to link and read the entire transcript.)
For much of my presentation so far I have talked about story, recovering the story in scriptural terms, and of course we have to do that. But there is this place where we actually enter the story. We don’t just learn the story, and say the story, but we become actors in the story; we begin to perform the story. And I don’t think we should be too self-conscious about that kind of language. Refer to the unbelievable central passage from Paul, “I live now not I, but Christ lives in me.” We have to take that at face value. One has to say about that what Flannery O’Connor said about the Eucharist, if it is just a symbol, the hell with it. It is not just a symbol. Christians are here to be incorporated into the work of Christ in history...
We are called to bring forgiveness into the world, being there with people who are suffering from their own unforgivenness and being simply an agent in the presence of whom people can begin to feel forgiveness. Forgiveness is a great mystery; it is not some sanctimonious thing that somebody who has it gives to somebody else. It is a spirit that infects us – it always has an infecting agent. There is always somebody who brings it in and introduces it into a situation of unforgivenness, and it is our Eucharistic responsibility to be about that business. In order to be able to be about such business, we have to experience the kenosis (meaning: a self-emptying) of Christian discipleship. So we take our lives, and this is our supreme privilege, we must not see this as some kind of melodramatic act of renunciation, it is the source of our freedom, to take our lives, thank God for them because it is a gift to us, and break them or let them be broken and give them away. And then, Jesus says, “do THIS in memory of me.” Do what? Do this in memory of me. Not just the gesture, of course we do the gesture; of course the Real Presence, but when Jesus says, do THIS, He is talking of something much more vast then that. He means doing that which the gesture represents – being Christ in the world.
I think that is what drinking the cup is all about, so that sins might be forgiven; so that the knot might be broken; so that the animosity might be absorbed or dispersed; so that the healing and forgiveness might be brought into this situation where unforgivenness is about to get the upper hand... It is at the Eucharistic table that we receive this gift and are nourished for the journey to go back out into the world and be Eucharistic people, be Christ to the world, absorbing that unforgivenness and being people who are not there on their own, but rather people who are saying with Paul, I live now not I, but Christ lives in me.