Broken but Undivided

Photo Credit to The Catholic Physicist

As an undergrad at Notre Dame, I was privileged to have a plethora of Masses to attend every day. I enjoyed going to the Law school for Mass, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and Knott and Stanford halls. But every now and again, on an odd Thursday evening when I was feeling in the mood to saunter through campus, I would end up at Dillon hall for their liturgy. Most dorm Masses were themed around some type of food, and Thursday Mass at Dillon Hall was the campus’s most famous and well-attended; I speak to you of Milkshake Mass.

Milkshake Mass was always a delight. You could easily find friends from all different majors converging in the same place to celebrate the same True God, accompanied by a great student-led band. Usually, the celebrant would be Father Joe Corpora, a delightfully charismatic and unfathomably kind man. He always made (and continues to make) it a point to learn everyone’s name and story. He really is a model for the priesthood – even when he wears athletic shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt (usually a red one that had something along the lines of “Make America Mexico Again”) to celebrate Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. He is, by all accounts, a character.

It was in the midst of this Mass – a collection of all types of people with a truly one-of-a-kind priest – that I heard the words that have echoed in my mind ever since. After the consecration of the host, when the priest presents Jesus to the congregation, he normally says “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” This Agnus Dei is a form of what St. John the Baptist says in John 1:29 “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (NAB). But the Agnus Dei that I heard at Milkshake Mass was different.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

I cried when Fr. Joe said these words, this new form of the same prayer I had heard since birth. For me, these words revealed the true intent of the Mass, and they echo in my heart. Fr. Joe, a missionary of mercy, included these words at Milkshake Mass to open our hearts to the merciful and unitive nature of God’s love for us. These ancient words – taken from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom – were meant to evoke the unchanging nature of Jesus’s one desire: to make us one.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

I don’t feel very “one” right now, which is in part why I wanted to write this article. Living in my childhood home in Louisiana, I don’t feel “one” with my Echo community in the diocese of Gary, Indiana. I don’t feel “one” with my students at Andrean High School, now almost 1000 miles away. And I certainly don’t feel “one” with the Catholic Church and the sacraments – those being denied to all of us by nature of this quarantine. I guess it is a good thing that I don’t belong to a religion, or worship a God, whose sole concern for my life is my “feelings.” No. My God loves all of me, and wants to sanctify my soul; Our God loves all of you, and wants to sanctify your soul.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

In this strange phase of life, many of us feel disconnected from that normalcy we once held so dear. Even though it could be boring, waking up every morning and having the same routine was deeply comforting. Now, even though waking up late and afternoon siestas are easier to come by, there is a deep melancholy about leisure activities that once brought joy.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

We watch the hourly increase in Covid-19 victims and we are no longer able to fathom the lives lost as people with a story. Instead, we can only stare in awe at numbers on a chart for comprehending death at this scale could easily drive one into despair. More than ever in living memory, we as a human race have an acute sense of our mortality. We are deeply broken – by sin and by disease. Our economy is fractured. Our American government continues to show that party colors are more important than the health and well-being of the American people. We are, like the Body of Christ, broken.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

We are, like the Body of Christ, undivided. Men and women in the medical field are sacrificing their lives to save others. People are staying home, connecting with loved ones through technology. The walls that keep us inside our homes do not keep us away from all that we love. Indeed, inasmuch as “Zoom” and “Google Meet” keep us connected to others who are not physically next to us, they also remind us that our experience of the sacramental life is not restricted to our being 5 feet away from the Blessed Sacrament. I am not speaking simply of watching Mass online, although that is a beautiful practice. I am speaking of just how far God comes to meet us in the sacrament.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

Jesus affirmed to the Woman at the Well that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24 NAB). The one who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) is not quarantined. Our God is not restricted from entering into our hearts. It is for this reason that, during every celebration of the Mass, we are invited to pray the act of spiritual communion. This isn’t simply so that we can think about Jesus a little while longer, but is done so that the God who is fully present in the Eucharist might be welcomed fully in our hearts.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

In as much as God makes us one when we physically receive Him, He makes us one when we spiritually receive Him. Okay, okay. This is a bunch of fancy theology, but what does this mean? It means that even though I may feel separated from my students, I am completely united to them through Jesus. It means that even though I may feel distant from my brother in Florida, I am with him. It means that even though I may feel separated from my roommate, from my friends, from all those other people that I love, I am with them. It means that even though I feel separated from those who have gone before me in life and are in heaven, I am with them.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

My feelings are a part of my, but do not dictate ultimate, reality. God dictates ultimate reality. And because he prayed that all people would be one, through the sacraments it is so. The God who declares His love for us has not abandoned us in these dark times; He is inviting us to turn towards Him. He is inviting us to be consumed in our focus on Him, in His mercy, in His love.

“Behold the Lamb of God, broken but undivided, consumed to make us one.”

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