We Are the Body of Christ

06-06-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

One of the best human activities we have is to gather as a family and even with friends around a table and have a wonderful meal. Sometimes it can be very fussy food and other times simple and tasty. The meal is really about sharing our connection to one another. Oftentimes this sharing actually involves certain rituals. Who are the cook(s) for special food? Who has set the table? Who serves? Do we wait for everyone to be seated? Who says grace? How does discus­sion take place? Who is in charge of the joy and laughter? Who is to re-tell the most important stories of family and friends that tell us who we really are? And, most importantly, who cleans up with washing the dishes and also the pots and pans and tidies up the kitchen and dining room? So this great symbolism of Jesus being the spiritual food for us and the preparation and ritual that go along with it are indeed most significant. This Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ re­minds us our spiritual food has great and profound meaning. This ritual meal of the Mass touch­es our inner being consciously and unconsciously.

Jesus clearly told his friends to remember him by breaking bread and drinking wine, He did not mean just to think nice thoughts about him, as we sometimes think nostalgically about "younger days" or the "olden days." Our faith and the message of Jesus is not a pretty greeting card with nice words. We must recognize that in sacred scripture and also at Mass to remember is a very special action. To remember means to make events or happenings from the past come alive now. In remembering we make the past present now in preparation for our future.

In the narrative of the Last Supper in the Gospels, we are asked to "do this in memory of me." That is why we gather, recall this part of the life of Jesus, and share the sacred friendship meal of bread broken and wine poured out. As Catholics, we believe that when we do this Jesus is with us now in so many ways: in our gathering, in our presider, in the Word of God we pro­claim and hear, and in the broken bread and shared cup. Our formal name for this is "the Eucha­rist." We more commonly call this "the Mass." We need to remember that the Eucharist is a sac­rament that is a wonderful celebration of friendship and graciousness.

That is why whenever the Christian community gathers for Eucharist, this ritual meal is more than just food and drink. Our faith tells us that what we share is the Body and Blood of Christ himself. At the Eucharistic meal we also share who we are for one another. The bread and wine not only embody Jesus present as spiritual nourishment, but also how we are food and drink for one another, how we are sustenance and support for one another.

Simply sharing the Eucharist does not automatically "make" us a faith community. To be a Christian community happens in our exchange of mutual service. We are not believing Christians because we sit on a bench in a church, but by how in the name of Christ we welcome others, reach out beyond ourselves, stand in solidarity with the poor and outcast, and also welcome eve­ryone without judgment.

Are you aware that at Mass that we celebrate the loving bonds that grow between and among us whenever we gather as a community of faith? We understand that our Eucharistic Cel­ebration is validated by our service and that our service is made stronger by our celebration. Through the celebration of the Mass, we come to understand who we are for one another, and we are graced to live that understanding. Bear in mind that just as the Body and Blood of Christ are our sustenance and help, so are we to one another.