Is it possible that we are making too much of the Eucharist? I must admit that the thought crosses my mind quite often these days. Am I losing my faith, I ask myself, or is it that I am coming to understand better the message and the meaning of Jesus? I pray, I hope, I read, I consult – and return to prayer once more. And then the certainty, the absence of doubt, the clarity of mind and firmness of belief with which I want to compose the homily at hand —–once again elude me, and I am left to bare my soul once more as the struggle to believe continues.
I don’t mean that I doubt the real and sacramental presence of Jesus in the sacrament. I hold to that firmly, as I always have, even though my concept of that presence has evolved over the long years of my faith life. I believe that Jesus, before his excruciating death, did direct that a meal of remembrance of him be celebrated for all time by those who believed in him as the revealer of God in our midst. I do believe that when we engage in that sacred and social event he is with us in an unparalleled oneness of spirit in which we pledge, publicly and solemnly, to represent him as fully as we possibly can in every circumstance of our ordinary lives – his love, his forgiveness, his compassion, his hope, his peace, his integrity, his joy.
That’s what Sunday Mass is: A gathering in which we express our thanks —
- for having come to know and to follow Jesus as the ultimate standard of our lives;
- for having been blessed with the friendship and companionship of our families and friends and our fellow congregants, however we have come into association with each other;
- for life and love and all the priceless blessings with which both are filled;
- and for having heard and accepted Jesus’ conviction that life and love do not end at the grave, but instead are transformed into an entirely new way of living in God and sharing in God’s immortality.
Then why my concern about our possibly making too much of the Eucharist? I think the reason is that we have been taught to objectify the sacrament: to regard it as a thing, no matter how sacred a thing. We have been taught to adore the sacrament as the Real Presence of Jesus. But, as far as I know, Jesus never asked for adoration; he invited us simply to follow him, to put into practice what he was teaching us by word and example, to learn to sense the presence of God in everyone and everything in our lives, and thus to live in union with the Creative Spirit in all the circumstances of our earthly existence.
We come then, not only to receive, but to DO Eucharist, a fluid ritual of personal commitment and common profession of faith.
The presiding priest wears this long white garment, the alb, which you see underneath this green chasuble I have on. It represents the baptism of each and all of us. In a way, as St. Paul expressed it, we “put on” the Risen Jesus when we were clothed with this robe at the reception of our first sacrament. We are here at Mass to do what Christians have done for two millennia: no matter our state in life, our occupation, our financial situation, or our social standing, we eat and drink of him mostly by absorbing his words and trying to incorporate his values into our lives. We receive him from each other in the course of our ordinary daily encounters. We experience him in our midst when we gather to pray together. He comes to us in sacramental reality in the sacred ritual of Eucharist. Our Creator is not distant or remote. God is with us in an endless variety of ways, but in none more intimately or intensely than in the person of Jesus, the nourishing, healing, life-giving bread of our lives.