Today’s liturgy invites us to reflect on this important aspect of our life. The gospel presents us with the story of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. We all know it, and there is no need to go through all the details. Within the intimacy of the gathering of a small circle of very close friends, Jesus breaks bread and shares the chalice, transforming them into his own body and blood. “Take this, this is my body,” he tells them, followed by “this is my blood”, referring to the wine of the chalice he gave them afterwards. All this is followed by a special command: “Do this in remembrance of me” (which Mark’s shorter-version-gospel omits).
It is clear that Jesus never intended his disciples to be mere spectators of a show during that fateful evening. He invites them to participate, to share. He asks them to continue to do the same thing as a memorial of what they had just experienced. Without going into all the theology behind it, today we are the Body of Christ in our world. In one of his Easter Sermons, St. Augustine says: “If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive.” This is also a constant theme in St Paul’s writings where he insists that we, as Church, are Christ's body. We are one body and if one member of the body is in pain then the whole body suffers with it. What had happened on the road to Damascus, when Jesus asked Paul “why are you persecuting me?” (when Paul was only persecuting members of the church) must have marked Paul for the rest of his life. Jesus and the Church are one and the same thing.
Yes, the Eucharist is the sacrament of “communion”. Isn’t it this what we call it in our everyday jargon? It is communion with our God, and communion with each other. Living the Eucharist in my everyday life implies that I rejoice with those members of the body that are joyful, and feel the pain of the rest. It means that I strive for healing whenever there are rifts within the Body, because a member cut off from the rest of the body cannot survive, whilst the body misses the missing part. In our present circumstances, as a Christian I feel the pain of the loneliness and isolation experienced by some of our members during this time of “stay-at-home” periods. It is very un-eucharistic. I also share in the shame and pain caused by what happened to the 215 children of Kamploops at the hands of my Church. As our Archbishop reminded us in his letter, quoting St Paul, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” (1 Cor 12:26)
Today the Church is offering us a good opportunity to reflect on something that is so important for us, and yet something which we often take for granted. What does participation in the Eucharist mean to me? In the meantime, we continue to pray that we see the day, sooner rather than later, when we can celebrate Eucharist together again. Thus, together, we will continue to be nourished, grow, and witness.