St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church (Norman, OK)
Genesis 14, 18-20 + Psalm 110 + 1 Corinthians 11, 23-26 + Luke 9, 11-17
They say: “Send them away.”
He says: “Feed them yourselves.”
With that, the great conflict begins: the conflict between; “There’s not enough” and “There’s more than enough.” Where we stand in this conflict will make all the difference when the master comes and calls for an accounting of what we have done with the gifts entrusted to us for awhile.
The resolution of that conflict within us Catholics should not be too difficult if and when we finally deeply understand, believe, and act like the Eucharistic people we have been invited to become. In the plan and wisdom of God revealed for us through Jesus Christ, we are chosen and called into a profound union with Jesus Christ. Through the gift of himself in bread and wine, two things happen because this is communion, not just food. Other food, when eaten, becomes a part of our body and that’s all. We eat a pear and it becomes part of us. That’s all. We do not become a pear. Some may observe that I am beginning to look like one, but I can assure you. It’s not happening!
When we consume the Body and Blood of Christ something more happens. In our usual way of thinking it’s always about us, we like to believe that Christ enters into our flesh and blood and into our being which is all very true; but that is only half of the mystery. Around this altar of the Eucharist, we remember his dying, we celebdrate his life and we enter into the mystery of God’s love. Those eat His flesh and drink His blood are assimilated into Jesus and become a part of him. What is important to understand, accept, and believe, you see, is the reverse of my example with the pear. This is the difference between taking communion and becoming communion. We have been stuck far too long in the idea that communion is something we get, take, or for that matter receive. It is way more than that, and failing to grasp that truth has left us profoundly impoverished, hungry, and helpless. As a consequence this wonderful, beautiful, world that should reflect the face of its creator everywhere looks broken, hungry, sad, and empty even in places where there is more than enough to eat.
We cannot take for granted so profound a union. It is more than Christ in us, we in communion are in Christ. But the fact is, we have become a lot like the Israelites in the desert who grew weary of the manna and quail and started longing for the food they had in Egypt. Having failed to cultivate a hunger in our hearts and souls, a hunger that comes from the need for communion, a hunger prompted by prayer and sacrifice, we settle for pizza and beer, a coke and a hamburger only to be hungry again a few hours later. In the meantime, having failed to enter into communion, an overweight nation is caught in the conflit over sending them away or feedng them.
Sometime in the fifth century the Patriarch of Alexandria, Cyril, spoke these words in a homily: “Come then let us hasten to the mystical supper. This day Christ receives us as his guests. This day Christ waits upon us….The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is slain…The life-giving chalice is mingled. God the Word incarnate enterains us. Wisdom, who has built herself a house, distributes his body and her bread and gives us his blood as wine to drink. Life bestows itself on mortals as food and drink. You have taseted the fruits of disobedience. Taste now the food of obedience. Eat of me who is life: Eat of life which never ends.”
The whole church this day, with Francis, the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter, is at prayer at this hour and everytime we assemble around this altar; so that we may become more and more the the very Christ we consume, so that finally having been gathered in communion and grafted onto this vine, no one will be hungry, no one will go away thirsty from this well of divine life, and all creation where ever we are found will in glory reflect the creator whose life is our privilege to share and whose gifts bring the duty to give. The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is the Church in Communion from which no one should be sent away.