Ch. 2: A Word to Live and Die By
Excerpts: “For years of mornings, I have woken wanting to die. But this morning, I wake wildly eating to live. In my reality-dream, I gasp for more time. But I have to wonder: more time for what? More time for more what? With an expiration of less than twelve hours, what does Jesus count as all most important? And He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them. (Lk. 22:19) He gave thanks: eucharisteo. The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace”. He took the bread and knew it to be a gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo also holds the derivative word for grace, chara, meaning “joy.” More what? More holy joy. Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the eucharisteo. The height of my chara joy is dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks. [Throughout scripture we see that] eucharisteo always precedes the miracle. Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, at the dinner before He would die, receives what God offers as grace and He gives thanks. Facing the abandonment of God, Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him. In taking communion, I am celebrating greater gain through great loss. The Eucharist invites us to give thanks for dying. Ten lepers are healed; only one returns to give Jesus thanks. Jesus says, “thy faith has saved thee.” We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Salvation, or saving, is intimately related to thanksgiving. He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God. Ps. 50:23.
Eucharisteo is like a present containing two other presents. Or like a Russian matroshka doll, with a doll within a doll within a doll. Giving thanks unlocks both grace/gifts and joy. I want that kind of joy. I’m not sure how I’ve missed this answer when it has been right in front of my face! But then again, I’m not sure how I could have missed all this grace, all these gifts, when they also have been right in front of my face.
I’m believing that as I give more thanks, I also will experience more joy.
For years of mornings, I have woken up anxious about what needs to be done that day. What to accomplish, how to be productive, what can I get done with the time I have. Always thinking about tasks. But I really care about people. And I want to be as radical about being as I previously have been about doing. I want to be alive with joy about getting to be that day, rather than fretting, planning, strategizing about what I’m going to do that day. Is eucharisteo the key to my transformation? The key to my freedom? The key to my salvation? “Sacrificing thanks prepares the way for being saved”
More time for what? I don’t want to be living for the vacation. Living for the holidays. I spend most my time toiling, planning, executing, doing. I haven’t embraced interruptions and messes. I blow through them as fast as I can so I can get back to do, do, do liturgy. Disgruntle the chores, verbally acknowledge the kids without really listening to them, adopt the stress that comes from imposing an artificial timeline on myself, find excuses to truncate story time before bed. More time for what? That’s not living.
I notice in this chapter that in the midst of His betrayal, Jesus gave thanks. And He meant it. He gave thanks for this time with His friends. He was more consumed with this gift of being with them–a final hooray!– than He was with His betrayal. I want to live like that–where the joy of the moment far overshadows the betrayal, pain, and grief. I realized, reding this, that when I’m in the midst of betrayal, persecution, or pain, I am totally preoccupied with it. Sure makes it hard for me to keep my eyes on “the joy set before me.” makes it hard to even identify the joy, let alone keep my eyes set on it.