You have certainly heard the age-old question, “What would Jesus do? (WWJD),” during some retreat you took, at a conference or in a guidebook or meditation you read on how to become a good disciple of Christ.

I am sure you — as I do — often ask yourself that question. It might better be phrased, “What does Jesus expect that I should do here and now;” or, “What should we do together as his disciples, since Jesus passed on his mission to us, as members of his mystical body, the Church?”

Jesus Christ fulfilled his historical mission on Earth in his life, death and resurrection. After ascending into heaven, he sent us his Holy Spirit to teach and remind us (Jn 14:26) about all he had accomplished, and to commission us to take that message into the world (Mt 28:16-20) that God loves.

So, we are now his ears and his eyes, his hands and his feet, his mouthpiece and his creative energy in this eucharistic communion we call the Church.
The first place to look to for answers about WWJD, or what would Jesus expect us to do now, is in the witness Christ himself gives to his own reality in his words and works.

In the Sunday Scriptures, we are hearing in August, from chapter six of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus introduces himself as the new manna, the “bread from heaven” who wants to feed us — and all of our hungers — with himself.

St Paul encourages us, who feed on the flesh and blood of our Lord, to “put on” Christ: to clothe ourselves with him (Rm 13:14).

As I mentioned last week, this is no “put on,” where we attempt in some way to play-act the historical Jesus by seeking to look like we think he did — sandals, beard, linen garments — if we can even know about his customary dress and grooming habits. It is not something superficial, but it goes deep.

We are invited to allow God to transform, even transfigure us into the image of his Son, so that others will see and love in us what God sees and loves in Christ.

This is a tremendously humbling task, for it means allowing God to change us, our attitudes, perhaps many of our habits and lifestyle issues that we may think define us — but that God does not see as defining us. It means “letting go and letting God,” as they say in 12-Step programs. It means putting God — not me or anyone or anything else — first.

Notice that this is what Jesus himself did all the time while he walked with us on the Earth. He always puts the will of his Father first, constantly. He said, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 6:38).

Even in his agony, we hear such words as, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done” (cf. Lk 22:42); and, as he breathes his last, “Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).

Jesus suffers and dies as he lived his entire life: for us! This is the reason he comes down from heaven: to give himself to us and for us. He uses the image of bread from heaven, which would have been familiar to his Jewish listeners from the Exodus accounts of the manna in the dessert. Jesus would become the long-awaited “new exodus” to be initiated by the Messiah, the one sent by God.

At the Last Supper, St. John does not include an account of the institution of the holy Eucharist, as the other evangelists and St. Paul do. John recounts, however, the narrative of the washing of the feet, which illustrates what the Eucharist both costs and accomplishes.

“The Son of Man has come to serve and not to be served,” Jesus said many times, and showed his soon-to-be sent Apostles as an example of what they were to do, if they wanted to be his true disciples (Jn 13:1-17).

The eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ is not only his real presence under the form of bread and wine, now sacramentally transubstantiated by the priestly words of consecration. Its full importance is made manifest in the transformation of the souls of believers who receive with open hearts, disposed to be changed into the image and likeness of the one whom they receive.

This ignites a faith impelled to action, because the Holy Spirit is by nature the divine person that drives us into the world to tell and live the Good News.

If we might sum up this core trait or characteristic of the personality of Jesus — what makes him the truly incarnate word that he is — we proclaim that he is Emmanuel, God with us in the world. He is not just some cosmic figure or force in an impersonal universe, nor even the energy and/or substance of the universe itself, which would be an idolatrous pantheism; but real and everlasting presence, manifested in human beings, who are the crown of God’s creation.

Humanity is given a great “lift” in the humiliation of Jesus Christ, the original “rich young man” who had everything and “emptied himself” completely for our sakes. He who was rich becomes poor for our sakes so that we might become holy in God’s sight (cf. Phil 2:7ff; 2 Cor 8:9).

The question, “What would Jesus do,” begins to find its answer is who Jesus is, here and now — not just the Jesus Christ, the word made flesh among us, who lived, died and rose as his historical mission revealed to us; but the Jesus Christ who never sheds his humanity, once incarnate, and continues among us and through us in the Church, his mystical body, till the “end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

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