My wife sometimes reminds me that Richard Rohr teaches that Jesus did not say, “Worship me.” Jesus said, “Follow me.” I imagine the results if Jesus had walked up to Levi’s tax collector’s booth and said, “Worship me.” Remember that Levi was an outlaw among his own people because he was part to the system that was ripping them off. He collected the taxes plus whatever value added he could impose for his own profiteering. If Jesus has said, “Levi, follow me,” Levi would probably still be in his tax booth happily ripping off his compatriots.
No, we know the rest of the story. Jesus issued a challenge to Levi’s better nature—his true self—to come and follow him. It was nothing more than a bare invitation. No promises. Just a simple, “Follow me.”
Almost immediately, Levi’s response paid off in huge dividends. Jesus was reclining at table with this despised tax collector and sharing a meal with him and his friends. Note how often Jesus shared meals with people, especially the outcasts and the marginalized. In an hour I am going to a county wide men’s ecumenical prayer breakfast . We will be sharing a meal together. Because two or three plus will be gathered the Risen Christ will be present as we share together. Meals are a very important component of social intercourse, as long as every individual is not playing on their isolating IPhone!
Jesus dined with others on so many Gospel occasions. He gave us Eucharist, which Garry Wills (Why Priests?) cautions, is not about some special priestly figure magically changing bread into the flesh of Christ and wine into his blood. Eucharist is not about transubstantiation. It is about gathering as the Body of Christ and sharing a meal with Jesus. When we dine with Jesus, we are Eucharist. It is about praise and thanksgiving for the Living Christ in our midst. Remember Eucharist means Giving thanks. Gratitude is the basic disposition of the Christian.
Meal sharing was the model of Eucharist in the early Christian house faith communities. There were no priests and bishops. Later bishops were appointed by the people to serve the needs of the community. My, O my, how things have changed. The church we know is not the church Jesus intended. It has been cleverly co-opted by male patriarchs bent on serving their own needs for power and prestige. To paraphrase a popular bumper sticker, “Visualize no popes or bishops!” Eucharist is about presence—the Risen Cosmic Christ who is bringing all things to fulfillment is present with us when we gather in family, civic community, and church community. The Temple imprisoned the God whose glory dwelt in the Ark of the Covenant as God moved freely among God’s people. The Risen Cosmic Christ cannot be confined to ciboria and tabernacles or even magnificent cathedrals. The Risen Cosmic Christ is present at our dinner tables. The Risen Cosmic Christ is present in the palm canopy of a jungle clearing where simple campesionos meet to break open the scriptures and eat together. Jesus is present whenever people gather in His name.
The Spirit of the Living Christ fashions us into the Body of Christ. We become the body that is broken for others as we strive for a more peaceful and more just world. We are the blood that is poured out as we reach beyond our own needs to serve others. We are the Risen Cosmic Christ made present. Jesus simply calls, “Come, follow me.” Let us be Eucharist to one another.