May 29, 2016
The Life of a Grape
Imagine if grapes could talk and had thoughts and feelings like the rest of us. A grape, growing on a vine, must surely know that someday it will be picked and made into some delicious product like raisins or grape jelly – or if it’s very lucky, wine. If grapes could think, they might wonder what they’re going to become – end up on someone’s toast as a Welch’s product, perhaps. But I also wonder if they’re afraid of getting smushed, though, because for a grape to be enjoyed, it must be destroyed. Either WE chew it, or we squish it for juice, or make it into pulp for jam. Do you think a grape fears its impending doom?
But consider this, too – some grapes, some fortunate few grapes, will have the opportunity to turn into the Blood of Jesus. Could you imagine the grapes vying for the honor? Some lucky grapes know that as they meet their death in the wine press, their very grape blood – er, juice – will be made into the wine that fills the chalice at Mass. Such fortunate fruits! Their death brings about the salvation of souls! By being willing to give up their juice, they literally become the Blood of Jesus Christ! It is the highest honor that a grape could have!
But luckily grapes can’t think and feel – which is good because then they might scream when we ate them! However, you and I can think and feel – and much like the grapes, we too can consider our end. At some point, you and I will also die, like the grapes. And it is possible for us to become the Body of Christ, much like the grapes became the Blood of Christ!
In fact, that is the whole point of our life – to become like Jesus. St. Theresa of Avila once observed that, now that Jesus is in Heaven, “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no feet but yours, no hands but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out on the earth; yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good; yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.” Jesus ascended into Heaven because now it’s our turn, to live and love like Christ on this earth today.
And this is why He gave us His Body and Blood. When I eat a sandwich, I turn the sandwich into my body – it gives me energy for my cells, nutrients to heal me, vitamins and minerals. But when I eat the Eucharist, He turns me into Him. Our body starts to become more like His body; our thoughts become more like His thoughts, our actions more like His actions. We start to love like Him, serve like Him, think like Him, see the world like Him. In a sense, He begins to live through us – we become the Body of Christ in the world today.
But back to the grape analogy – what does a grape have to do to become the Blood of Christ? It must give up its life. What must we do to become the Body of Christ? We must give up our sins, our prejudices, our grudges, our hatreds. We must die to the pleasures of this world. If we do not give these up, we cannot be remade into the Body of Christ!
The vast majority of people never realize this great dignity, to become like Jesus! Just like most grapes end up in a boring Welch’s bottle and not in a chalice at Mass, most people end up living boring lives all about themselves and their pleasures, instead of becoming transformed into the living Body of Jesus!
Have you ever met someone who you’ve said, “Wow, I felt like I could see Jesus when I looked at him!” (And not just because they had long hair and a beard!). I’ve met several people who reflected Christ’s love so intensely that you could almost see the light of Christ shining through their eyes and the words of Christ coming from their mouth. That should be what all of us aspire to! And we do that by repenting of our sins, and receiving God’s grace in the Eucharist.
After all, a grape has no choice as to whether it becomes a raisin or the Blood of Christ. We do have a choice as to whether we become just an ordinary person or another Christ on this earth. All of us, without exception, are created to become the Body of Christ – by staying connected to Him in the Eucharist and then letting Him live and love through us.