The gift of the Lord, the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive is the greatest gift possible. Many do not put enough value on the Eucharist to attend Mass regularly. They will respond, “We are good people. We believe in God and that is all that matters.” But the problem with their argument is that there is no place for God’s greatest gift, the Eucharist, in their lives. The awe, the respect, the reverence for the Eucharist is missing from their lives.
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord was established in the thirteenth century to promote respect and reverence for the Eucharist. The celebration has retained its purpose. We need to stop today and consider our reception of communion. We need to ask God to rekindle in us and in all our people the awe, the respect, and the reverence that is fundamental to understanding the reality of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
When the famous historian Christopher Dawson decided to become a Roman Catholic, his aristocratic mother was distressed, not because she had any aversion to Catholic dogma, but because now her son would, in her words, have to "worship with the help", the servants. She was painfully aware that, in church at least, his aristocratic background would no longer set him apart from others or above anyone. At church he would be just an equal among equals because the Eucharist would strip him of his higher social status.
She is the one who should have been baptized because she understood Eucharist correctly. “Gentile or Jew”.. The Eucharist, among other things, calls us to justice, to disregard the distinction between rich and poor, noble and peasant, aristocrat and servant, both around the Eucharist table itself and afterwards outside of the church. On Friday we celebrated the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Mary proclaims the beautiful Magnificat Hymn. Mary prophesized, that, in Jesus, the mighty would be brought down and that lowly would be raised up. It was this very thing that first drew Dorothy Day to Christianity. She noticed that, at the Eucharist, the rich and the poor knelt side by side, all equal at that moment.
In the gospels and in the Christian scriptures in general, the call to reach out to the poor and to help create justice in the world is as non-negotiable as keeping the commandments and going to church. Indeed striving for justice must be part of all authentic worship.
First, by definition, the Eucharistic table is a table of social non-distinction, a place where the rich and the poor are called to be together beyond all class and status. At the Eucharist there are to be no rich and no poor, only one equal family praying together in a common humanity. In baptism we are all made equal and for that reason there are no separate worship services for the rich and the poor. Moreover, St. Paulwarns us strongly that when we gather for the Eucharist the rich should not receive preferential treatment.
Indeed, the gospels invite us in the opposite direction. When you hold any banquet, they tell us, we should give preferential treatment to the poor. This is especially true for the Eucharist. The poor should be welcomed in a special way. Why?
Because, among other things, the Eucharist commemorates Jesus' brokenness, his poverty, his body being broken and his blood being poured out. We don't go to the Eucharist only to worship God by expressing our faith and devotion. The Eucharist is not a private devotional prayer, but is rather a communal act of worship which, among other things, calls us to go forth and live out in the world what we celebrate inside of a church, namely, the non-importance of social distinction and the special place that God gives to the tears and blood of the poor. Eucharist takes its origin in Jesus who, drawing upon the great prophets of old, assures us that the validity of all worship will ultimately be judged by how it affects "widows, orphans, and strangers."
You might think it a bit strange that on this Feast of Corpus Christi the Church gives us not an account of the Last Supper for our Gospel text but focuses instead on the Feeding of the Five Thousand. But if you examine the text closely you will see that this miracle has very strong Eucharistic overtones. The language used is precisely the same as that used at the Last Supper: ‘took, blessed, broke, gave’these are words we are very familiar with and summarize the four movements within the mass. Also eucharistic in character is the description of the leftovers. “Fragments,” is the technical term used in ancient writings to refer to the broken particles of eucharistic bread. What do we do with the leftovers? Luke doesn’t tell us who took home the leftovers, but we may be sure they did not go to waste. As Jesus’ disciples today, not only are we to welcome them to the Lord’s table, but we are to attend to their other hungers as well. Not to do so is to offend Jesus’ eucharistic generosity.
The whole context of this great miracle of the loaves is that of healing. As the opening lines states so clearly, ‘Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the Kingdomof God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.’ And what can be more healing than love?
Jesus’ charged his apostles, “Give them some food yourselves.” This continues to be the agenda of the church.
Yesterday at our parish transition meeting we spoke about the importance of Community Concerns, about One-to-One Relationships and bringing to the greater Metro Vancouver Alliance our issues of concern as we work with Groups from other Christian Faiths and people of no-faith to bring about the Common Good! Our Faith is celebrated in Liturgy, strengthened by Eucharist, but flows forth from the sanctuary to transform our neighborhoods and workplaces and schools with Christ’s presence so as to make the secular world sacred again.