Portkey to Calvary
Sermon for the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Preached on April 18, 2014 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Isaiah 52:13-52:12; Psalm 31:2, 12-13, 15-17, 25; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
In the world of Harry Potter, a portkey is something as ordinary as a boot or a trophy that does something extraordinary: the person who comes into contact with this enchanted everyday object is suddenly transported someplace else.
Long before JK Rowling imagined such a thing in her magical universe, we Catholics already had a name for consecrated everyday objects that can take us from our corner of the earth to a little piece of Heaven. We call them sacraments. They are things that we encounter almost every day—water, oil, bread, and wine—but, because they have been set apart for God, they take on a whole new meaning and purpose: they have become visible signs of invisible grace.
The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament that we call the most blessed because it brings us the real presence of Christ. It takes us to the Last Supper where Christ shared the same sacred meal with His apostles. It transports us to Calvary where He offered His Body on the Cross and shed His Blood for our sake. It gives us a taste of His unending banquet in Heaven.
It seems strange to talk that way. That is why some people simply dismiss the Eucharist as a symbol of something that had happened a long time ago. We Catholics believe that it is more than a symbol, but we do not believe that Christ dies again and again on this altar every time we celebrate Mass. Christ died for our sins once and for all (cf. Rom. 6:10, Heb. 7:27) As a man, He died at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon in a year in the first century. But, as God, He stretched out His hands from the beginning of time and all the way to the edge of eternity, and took the past, the present, and the future to Himself on that Cross. That is why today we can dare sing “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” (cf. Were you there?) because we know that everyone was there on Calvary, from the first man and woman to the last members of our race.
The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of that sacrifice; it is our portkey to Calvary. It helps us defy the limits of time and takes us to that hour of mercy. It helps us defy the limits of space and transports us not only to the gory of the Cross but also to the glory that is to come.
This is not a mere magician’s trick. It is the Master’s true grace to take something as ordinary as bread and turn it into something more: His Body, broken on that Cross for our sake.
We often do not realize it but, every time we gather at this table of the Lord, every time we approach this altar of His sacrifice, we come to the place where Heaven and earth meet, where the past and the future are made present, where the human is made one with the divine. I do not know about you, but, when I think about it, “sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble” (cf. Were you there?).