Years ago, someone told me that you know you’re getting old when someone breaks into your car and leaves your CDs behind. Well, about 8 years ago, someone broke into my car, and left behind the CDs, including one of my favorites, “The Best of Engelbert Humperdinck”. That CD listed, “Am I That Easy to Forget?” as one of Engelbert’s big hits. How blessed am I?
I think of that title as I stroll through the Gospel story of Jesus. This is Jesus, the perfect mirror of God, Who said “follow me” 87 times. Where did He lead those willing to follow Him? Well, they entered villages and spent time with people whom most others kept at arm’s length. After his 40 days in the desert, He began His public ministry proclaiming that “the Spirit is upon me, because he has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.” Jesus lead His wondering and wandering followers to the outcasts and cast out; to the down-trodden and scattered; to the sick, hungry, neglected, voiceless - the many faces of the invisible Lazarus. He challenged existing systems, Religious and Political, which burdened those who hurt most. The Gospels remind us, over and over, that God preferred that Jesus spend time with those whom others considered least. As disciples, our very nature and the compassion of our hearts direct our steps. The Jesus of the Gospels has much to say both to the poor and wealthy. He has Good News for all.
Why did Jesus spend so much time with folks on the margins? Because Jesus knew that those who hurt most are most easy to forget. Let’s think about that. How often do we remember the very people with whom Jesus spent so much time, and invited his followers to do the same? If solidarity with the poor formed the nucleus of Jesus’ life, then, every level of our journey of Faith — our Seminary Formation, our Sacrament Preparations, our Liturgical Celebrations, our Parish Mission Statements, our Youth Ministry, our Theology Curricula from Elementary School to the University should point us to the road that Jesus travelled. The poor and invisible were central to Jesus’ mission, and they are essential to our Faith development, Spiritual growth, and our Baptismal call to help shape a more just world. To lose sight of that is to lose sight of the Gospel. That blindness is radically unacceptable to Jesus, who promised “recovery of sight to the blind.”
So, how do we connect recognizing the Real Presence of Christ in the Breaking of Bread, as well as recognizing the Real Presence of Christ in the lives of our broken sisters and brothers? To quote our own Catechism 1397, “The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive, in truth, the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest....” How challenging for us as Church, called to leaven the mission of Jesus, to bridge the Church and the Marketplace.
Today, who are those so easy to forget? Why are they so easy to forget? The very people whom Jesus considered so vital to His life’s purpose now become so easy to forget. Maybe that’s why, at His Last Supper, mindful of how and with whom He spent His years of ministry, He took bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and shared the Bread of the Living with His new Church, saying to them and to us, “Do this in Memory of Me”. In other words, re-member those who were closest to My Sacred Heart. Then, Jesus took on the role of a slave and washed their feet, reminding every generation that Pentecost gave birth to a Servant Church.
Larry DiPaul is director, Parish and Social Justice Ministry, Diocese of Camden