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Jesus is Real and Present to Us

Last Sunday, our parish witnessed an extraordinary event: a live play of the Passion of Jesus Christ presented by a Polish theater group from the Chicago area. This is the sixth time they presented the story of our Lord’s passion at Corpus Christi. During this Lent, they will have performed in 13 churches in the Chicago metro area, and they (80 people) will fly to Poland to give an additional seven performances in the Krakow area.

Witnessing this dramatic retelling of Jesus’ life, passion, crucifixion, death, and resurrection always moves the hearts and minds of those watching this play. Beautiful, original music and songs and evocative visual effects helped viewers to go deeply into the mystery of our salvation. (Approximately 540 people came to see the play in our church in two performances.)

In this year’s performance, while watching the representation of the Last Supper, I realized that the table used by the actors playing the apostles and Jesus was placed exactly in the same spot where our altar stands during our Mass celebrations, and that the actor playing Jesus was standing exactly in the same place where I, the priest, am standing during the consecration. Like Jesus, who in the play elevated the bread for the consecration and said, “This is my body”, I also am elevating the bread and repeat exactly the same words during every Mass: “This is my body…” What is the difference? Jesus in the play is only an actor and Jesus Christ is not present “in” the actor. Also, during the play, the bread which Jesus “consecrates” is obviously not consecrated. It remains only bread. It is not the Bread of Life – the real Body of Jesus Christ. However, during every single Mass, the bread becomes the Body of Christ during consecration.

There is also another interesting element: during the play, the most important scenes of Jesus’ redemptive actions took place in the center of the sanctuary of our church: the scene of the Last Supper, Jesus’ passion, his crucifixion, and death on the cross and his resurrection. We commemorate exactly these things during every Mass at exactly the same place. More than a commemoration: these events actually become present for us. The Mass is rightly named an “unbloody sacrifice” and, Jesus during the Mass, is really offering himself to us as he did 2000 years ago on the cross.

The play gave viewers an extraordinary and powerful artistic visualization of the mystery of God’s love and redemption. It is an undeniable fact that He physically left this world, and He is now in heaven. However, He has never actually left this world as He said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20) and is present here with us on earth in His Church and, above all, in the Eucharist.

Fr. Mark Jurzyk