Corpus Christi, 2018
A pilot at American Airlines put in a bid to work a certain trans-continental flight. According to protocol, he then waited for a confirmation call from crew scheduling to let him know that his bid to work was accepted and that he would in fact be flying that day. Later that evening, he realized to his surprise that he had never received a confirmation call. When he looked it up on the computer, he discovered that another pilot, with just a little bit more seniority than he, had outbid him and bumped him off the job that particular day.
It was only while watching the news the following day that he realized what had happened. Incredibly, the flight this pilot was bumped off of was American Airlines flight 11; the day, Sept. 11, 2001; the plane, the aircraft that never made it to its destination because it flew into the World Trade Center. This extraordinary experience is recounted in a book called: In My Seat: A Pilot's Story from Sept. 10th-11th by Megan Ann Scheibner.
The pilot went on to say: I should have died that day. That was my flight, but someone else took my place; someone else died instead of me. Have you ever had someone die in your place? Or narrowly avert death because someone saved your life? Actually, we all have --- someone else took our seat and died in our place to save us from the eternal death of sin, and this is Jesus. This was the extraordinary insight of this pilot.
Without Jesus, I risk being on a flight that ultimately goes nowhere, that leads in the end to a wasted life, or even disaster. I need Jesus to “take my seat.” In the Holy Eucharist, we see Jesus who has taken our place die for our sins to save us from eternal death.
It is not an accident that Jesus gives us his Body and Blood on the night before he died, the night before he entered into death and paid the price for us, the night before he took your seat. Jesus was to become weak, and vulnerable, and able to be hurt. As God, Jesus was none of those things, but he took a frail human body in order that he might be vulnerable. What Jesus asks of us is faith. He is willing to fly in our place, but we must want him first.
Jesus in the Eucharist does not speak, but neither is he silent. If you come to him and believe in him, he can work mighty powers in your life. Jesus in the Eucharist appears to be weak and vulnerable, easily crumbled and violated, but he does this in order to be loved and believed in. One cannot offer oneself for love unless one is willing to be vulnerable.
The Eucharist is also vulnerable. Jesus has taken this form in our own time that we might allow him, even now, to be vulnerable for him and allow him to be vulnerable to us. He is vulnerable to our lack of faith, to our indifference, to our sins. Some people don’t realize that they need someone to die in their place; that heaven requires someone to pay the price; that the plane we are on will not land there unless Jesus takes over the flight for us.