What Would Jesus Do?
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
“What would Jesus do?”
We’ve all heard that phrase – it’s been in Christian parlance now for about twenty years, as I can recall. The spirit of the saying is that when acting we should consider what the Lord would do in a situation and seek to imitate Him. It is usually a call to compassion in the midst of high emotions. However, regardless of how long that phrase has been in our language, on our keychains, and slapped on our rear windows, “What would Jesus do?” is, in fact, the true spirit of Christianity.
Saint Paul is sharing this with the Corinthians today, as he recounts the heart of his ministry as rooted in what Jesus did. Namely, “on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’." Paul is recalling Christ’s institution of the Eucharist. More than that, though, he is reminding us that this celebration that we do in memory of Christ, also makes present the very mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord until He comes.
For Paul, and for Christians throughout the centuries, doing what Jesus did was the keystone to any life of faith. Today, we also want to live that life and do what Jesus did. Sadly, too few of us do what Paul is talking about today – that is, coming together to celebrate the Eucharist and remember exactly what Jesus did. Is it any wonder that we stray so far from the Christian ideals of love of neighbor, welcome of the stranger, compassion for the poor, and self-sacrificial love?
Too often, “What would Jesus do” has become a mask for doing exactly what I want to do. What would Jesus do? He would be fine with the sins of our brothers and sisters (because I want Him to be fine with my own!). He would not correct errors when He saw them (because that’s just too hard and inconvenient for me). He would associate with those who go against the Church’s teachings (because, shoot, let’s get with the times already!). After all, Jesus hung around with sinners; why shouldn’t I? Well, if the lesson we get from the stories of Jesus hanging around with sinners is that we should hang around with more sinners, then we are confused about who we are in that story.
To true answer to knowing “What would Jesus do?” lies in spending time in the Real Presence of Jesus – not of others who think like us and simply validate our possibly mistaken convictions. Jesus is the source of Truth, and only He can show it to us, and thereby make us free. Coming together to share in the Body and Blood of Christ means that we are closer to Him than we can ever be this side of Heaven. How could we not want that if we profess to love Him?
There have been times in my life when I have been cowardly, when I have acted selfishly or out of fear, when I have made stupid mistakes and hurt people. All of these could have been explained away by simply asserting that “no one can judge me” or “What would Jesus do” in defense of my own self interest. However, when I really look deep, I know that these things were done, and done wrong, because I was farther from Jesus than I should be. If I have ever done that in my ministry as a priest and pastor among you, I apologize. We all need Jesus – we need Him badly!
The Feast of Corpus Christi teaches us that there is a way to know and touch Jesus intimately and to be guided to know exactly what He would do. It comes in the regular contact that we get with Him through the Eucharist. Nothing else can bring us as close as this Host and the the Chalice. Nothing.
No matter what happens, no matter where we are, or where our paths take us, Jesus ensures that we are united – not only with Him but with one another – in the celebration of the mystery of His Body and Blood. Stay close to that Gift; never take it for granted. We have been blessed in these sacred moments of our time together to encounter the Lord and proclaim His death and resurrection, because of the Eucharist. And now we go together to share that love, compassion, and forgiveness with the world.
Because that’s what Jesus would do.