FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI
At a local Burger King, an elderly couple came in and ordered one burger, one order of fries, and a coke, with two cups. When they got to their booth, the husband placed one napkin in front of himself and another, in front of his wife. He then proceeded to divide the fries, to cut the burger in half, and to divide the coke equally between the two cups.
Another man in the restaurant noticed what the couple was doing and offered to buy them another burger, fries and Coke.
The wife replied, “No you don’t understand. We’ve been married over 50 years and ever since our wedding day, we’ve agreed to split everything, equally, right down the middle.”
Her husband then began eating, as she sat with her hands patiently folded in her lap.
The same onlooker asked the wife why she wasn’t eating yet.
She replied, “I told you….We split everything right down the middle, and it’s my husband’s day to use the dentures first.”
While many of us may not be willing to share dentures with another person, the willingness of that husband and wife to strive to really live out the unitive dimension of their marriage, as well as the onlooker’s offer to help the couple whom he perceived to be in need, get at the very heart of what eucharist is all about.
For us Catholics, the Eucharist is fundamentally a sacred meal, in which we come together as Christ’s disciples— to do what Jesus told us to do — to break bread and to drink wine, as the early disciples had done with Jesus at the Last Supper, as a memorial of what was soon to take place. —-when Jesus’ body would be broken and his blood would be shed upon the cross, for the forgiveness of all of our sins. As such, every time we celebrate the Mass, we unite ourselves to that one sacrifice of Christ on the cross, offered once, for all.
In that sense, every Eucharist, in a very real way, transcends space and time and makes us participants and partakers of the grace-filled events of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. At every mass then, we can say that temporal time stops and sacred time begins. Sacred time is the time that we dedicate wholeheartedly to being with Christ, in a mystical way, as the very words of consecration are spoken by the Priest who acts in the Person of Christ, as if for the very first time. We can tell if we’ve truly entered sacred time, if we’ve stopped looking at our watches during mass. We can tell if we’ve truly entered sacred time, if we don’t tune out the Ministers of the Word when they proclaim the scriptures to us and when the preacher presents the homily to us. We can tell if we’ve entered sacred time, if we aren’t distracted by what others in the church are doing or by the crying of infants around us. Sacred time is sacred because we’ve made a concerted effort to meet Christ in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist and to worship him as Lord and Savior, despite the many things that may vie for our attention.
The Eucharist is also a sacrament of healing and forgiveness of our sins. That’s what the penitential rite of the mass is all about! That’s also the reason that the priest elevates the chalice at the time of consecration— to show all present the extent to which Jesus was willing to go, to forgive our sins. Sadly, we’ve probably all met persons who refuse to receive the Eucharist or who don’t come to church at all because they’re afraid that they’re in a state of venial sin and therefore consider themselves as unworthy of receiving the sacrament.
Yet, as pope Francis said so beautifully in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel in 2013, “The eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. (EG, 47)” If you don’t get anything else out of today’s mass, please meditate on that, all week long. “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak!”
The Eucharist is meant to heal us and to strengthen us by giving us the graces we need to combat sin and evil in all its forms and in every place and circumstance! It’s meant to be a powerful arsenal against the judgments of others, the pessimism of others, the lack of fellowship among others, the lack of love, peace and joy in others! As Pope Francis rightly says, “these convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness.”
What the pope is getting at, is that we, as a church community, need to consider if, the ways we minister, the way we welcome, the way we worship, the way we celebrate sacraments, and the ways we evangelize are truly reaching out to the sick and the weak, the sinner who feels unwelcome or unworthy to approach the table of the Lord. And, if what we’re doing isn’t working, are we bold enough to find new, creative ways to reach out in love to all persons, regardless of their past histories or sins and invite them into fellowship with us and to conversion of heart, mind and soul according to the Gospel?
Pope Francis goes on to say that a good gauge for whether we’re truly leading others to Eucharist is whether we’re acting as arbiters of God’s grace or as facilitators of God’s grace. (47) The difference is an arbiter makes himself/herself the judge of whether another is worthy, whereas a facilitator doesn’t presume to know the heart of the other and is willing to do whatever it takes to help God’s grace flow abundantly to the individual! Eucharist then, is a call to be a missionary disciple, ready to facilitate God’s grace, each and every day!
In the Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reiterated this sentiment when he said, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty, because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre, and which then ends, by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.
If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while, at our door, people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). (49)
Give them something to eat! Can we hear any greater eucharistic mandate than that? To feed others means to invite them to find what we’ve found! To feed others means to never be satisfied with our own full bellies.
Indeed, another dimension of Eucharist is our common adoption and identification, as brothers and sisters in Christ! Through baptism, we’re part of one, big family! And as brothers and sisters who love one another, we must make the time to strengthen our bonds of fellowship with one another outside of mass, and to make our gatherings for worship, fitting sacrifices of praise to God, even when we can’t be physically present to one another, as is the case with our current pandemic restrictions.
Being brothers and sisters in Christ means not rushing off when hospitality Sunday arrives. It means not sitting by ourselves at a table or sitting always with the people whom we already know. It means lending a helping hand when there’s a need. It means extending a friendly welcome and smile to newcomers or an invitation to our coworkers, or to a fellow student, or to someone whom we’ve just met at the grocery store. Eucharist means making everyone feel that they belong when they enter the doors of our church! So on this solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, let us truly give Christ glory by being persons centered in the Eucharist, in love with the Eucharist, and on fire with the eucharistic mission of facilitating graced encounters with Christ.