Reflections on the Readings
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 26, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
I am Not Worthy
"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." - Jesus (John 6:56)
As I meditate upon the Body and Blood of Christ, my mind drifts back. I go back to a special time in my Christian experience to the Pentecostal Church in which I met Christ. Now we Pentecostals like most Protestants believed that the grape juice we drank and the wafer we ate were symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. During the formative years of my Christian life I remember only one time we celebrated Communion.
Again, we did not hold a sacramental view of Communion but we approached it with reverence and respect. A wooden kitchen table was set up in the front of the church with six corresponding wooden chairs. Groups of six would sit at this table and re-enact the reception of the bread and the juice. I would call these years the time in which I lived in the shadows of the fulness of the truth. Like the wilderness wanderers who queried about the manna that lay on the ground, I grew to ask what is the meaning of this bread and this cup.
Now we Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the 'source and summit' of the Christian life. That which we receive on our tongues and drink from the cup is a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is not mere symbols we encounter. We live in the rich rewards of revealed truth. That truth is formed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And through that same Spirit every Sunday we call that Bread and that Wine the Body and Blood of Jesus our Lord. No one can call him that except by the Holy Spirit. As we last Sunday meditated on the The Most Holy Trinity we today meditate on the equally indispensable pillar of Truth, the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Eucharist elevates our understanding of the Church and of the Christian life; the depth of what it means to be Christian.
Paul, before his conversion was Saul of Tarsus. He was an ardent persecutor of the early Church. On his way to Damascus to continue his bloodlust against the Way, Jesus spoke to Saul and said: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" And he said, "Who are you Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting..." From this we can see that the Church is Christ. Christ is the head of his body which is the Church. (Ephesians 1:22, 23)
This is what I mean when I say the Eucharist elevates our understanding of the Church. It inspires us to pray more fervently for its unity. It brings us to a deeper appreciation for the Sacraments which come to us from the Church. For in every Sacrament of the Church we meet Jesus. It's all about Jesus. And to forget that is to drivel around in meaningless ritual. Ritual is not a bad word. The deeply held meaning of the rituals of ancient Christian worship and life brings us to the person of Christ. To meet Jesus through the ministry of the Church is to find forgiveness and grace and mercy - righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
In the world of the early Church, to become a Christian was to also sign up for martyrdom. It was not popular to be a Christian. The sustaining food of the ancient Christian was the Body and Blood of Jesus. It was a union with Christ without whom they could not face the trials and the temptations of their day.
We are no less needy. Today we live increasingly in a world that hates and despises the name of Christ. The convictions and testimony of Believers is discounted. Time honored things like respect and reverence for life, love, marriage, babies, the physically and mentally challenged, and the elderly are glibly given homage. These are perilous times when the light of our life in Christ is needed more than ever. The mission of light is to dispel the darkness. Those who experienced the power outage this week due to the recent storms valued the light of a candle or flashlight.
It is the face of Jesus in us that brings to our family and friends a reminder of the kindness of God. There is no shortage of opportunity to help those we know and love to believe in the goodness of the Lord. It is we who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good who reenter the world every Sabbath as servants and friends of sinners. Today as we feast at this Banquet of Love, let us approach the Table of the Lord with reverent and grateful hearts.
We will pause to pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." And then he will say to us, "Come unto me all of you who hunger and thirst and are weary, and I will feed you and you will find your rest in me." And then we will rise in newness of life in the Spirit and begin to tell the children of Adam and Eve where we found the Bread of Heaven. Amen.