Reflection for Sunday – June 18, 2017
Readings: Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14B-16A; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6: 51-58
Preacher: Alice Nation
This weekend, the Church celebrates Corpus Christi, also known as the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The celebration of this feast dates back to the 13th century. Some might remember this feast with the procession of the Eucharist through town.
This tradition has all but disappeared. But the importance of this feast still remains. As Catholic Christians, our faith tells us that Christ is present in the celebration of the Eucharist. When we gather each week, we are not simply remembering an important event in the history of our church. We recognize God’s presence in the Eucharist and in our midst.
When I think of this feast, I often remember back 30 years to a couple I knew when I was ministering in Saginaw, Michigan. In that community, on special holidays and celebrations, members of the parish would make the Eucharistic bread for the liturgies. It was Advent, and I was asked to find volunteers to make the bread for the Christmas liturgies.
During the second week of Advent, I asked a family. “Sure, we’d love to,” was their response. I gave them the simple recipe at Mass the next weekend and invited them to bring the bread to the sacristy for the 4 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve.
I didn’t know anything extraordinary had happened until I went to church on Christmas Eve. It was during the homily that I learned how the bread bakers had been nourished by the act of mixing, kneading, forming and baking the bread.
Carol and John had two children in high school and one in college. Life each day was full. It was the day before Christmas Eve and they had put off the task of making the Eucharistic bread all day. About 10 p.m. Carol and John, exhausted, went to the kitchen to begin the task they committed to weeks before. There was talk about the day’s events, the kids, what had to be done the next day…the conversation went on and on as they mixed the few ingredients that go into Eucharistic Bread.
And then, the kitchen became silent. They looked at one another and realized what they were actually doing. Their task took on a whole new meaning. They understood in new way the death and resurrection of our Lord and the gift we receive each time we celebrate the Eucharist. They understood in a new way how the things they do each day connect with feeding others and being fed by others.
Carol and John caught a glimpse of their role as servants, servants to their faith community, to their family and to the larger community. They knew, at that moment, they were connected to others with bonds that could not be broken. This bread that they were making would be transformed into Jesus.
At that moment, and in the moments that followed, Carol and John realized that not only were they preparing the bread for the Eucharist of the community, but also that they were—that they are—Eucharist. They saw themselves as Jesus does, as living examples of the body and blood of Christ. Jesus would truly be present in the Eucharist and also truly present in their lives.
We celebrate the Eucharist so often that it is easy to forget what we do and why we do it. This is a day to remember that Jesus comes to us in the elements of bread and wine. When we gather week after week, it is not just to remember an important event in the history of our church. We gather and experience the presence of Christ. He is alive. We are in him and he is in us. It’s that simple. I wonder, do we really believe that Jesus is just as real and present in our spouses or children or coworkers as Jesus is real and present in the Eucharist we share week after week?
In my home, if I remembered that my husband and children are as holy and as sacred as the Eucharist we partake in each weekend, I might treat them much differently. I might muster up more patience and more tenderness, and I might choose my words more carefully.
If we walk out of church today and forget what has just happened, we have missed the point. Today’s feast is a reminder that Jesus is truly present in what we celebrate here and in our lives. Because of this, you and I are called to be this presence, the living Christ, the Body and Blood of the Risen Lord for all those we meet.
Most of the time, we probably are. But today we are invited to go one step further. We are invited to remember what we do each time we receive the Eucharist and why we do it. When we walk to the front of church to receive the Eucharist, do we take the time to consider the Lord, alive and well—in the center of our everyday lives, in the midst of our struggles and celebrations? Maybe, maybe not.
Honestly, I would not say that I fully understand this mystery each and every day. I don’t. But when I need to be encouraged or reminded, I come back to the Eucharist and look around. And I am reminded that each of us is living our own story and trying to faithfully figure it out. We come hungry and in need of God. Today’s feast is a reminder that God is really here in our presence, simply waiting.
As we begin a new week, may each of us, like Carol and John, have hearts open enough to recognize God in our midst.