Thinking Anew: Communion with one another

 “Without in any sense taking away from the ‘traditional’ meaning or understanding of the Eucharist, surely it is important to try to place the sacrament in the context of the world in which we find ourselves.”

“Without in any sense taking away from the ‘traditional’ meaning or understanding of the Eucharist, surely it is important to try to place the sacrament in the context of the world in which we find ourselves.”

 

When anything to do with the Eucharist gets media attention it’s mainly “negative” material or else stories that are really peripheral to the sacrament. A couple of scenarios come to mind: when a celebrity or a well-known Catholic receives Communion in a non-Catholic church and then the annual dress-up day when we see and read about young children making their first Holy Communion and some of the practices that surround the day. There is also the phenomenon of people receiving Holy Communion who are “deemed” ineligible to receive the Eucharist.

Lada Gaga was in the news some weeks ago when she posted a story on Facebook praising a Fr Duffell for saying that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us. Perspicacious of Lady Gaga to quote the wise words of her favourite priest. We don’t often hear sensible or real words about the Eucharist in the public forum.

Tomorrow is the feast of Corpus Christi or the Body of Christ. According to canon law it is one of five days in the year when a diocesan bishop is not to be away from his diocese unless for a grave or urgent reason.

In tomorrow’s Gospel St Luke (9: 11-17) tells us how the disciples of Jesus were able to feed a large crowd with five loaves and two fish. It certainly is a remarkable achievement.

Without in any sense taking away from the “traditional” meaning or understanding of the Eucharist, surely it is important to try to place the sacrament in the context of the world in which we find ourselves. In other words to make an attempt to giving it meaning for people who think of it only in terms of Communion dresses and how it can create controversy.

The Catholic Church believes that Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. That the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

What exactly does that mean for the majority of people who participate at Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi in Catholic churches around the world?

Yes, it means that Christ is really present. But Christ is not physically present in the same way that I am sitting down writing these words. Christ is present sacramentally in the Eucharist.

But consider the meaning of the word “Communion”? Surely it is about people living in communion and harmony with one another. And like all the sacraments, the Eucharist is both a sign but it also helps bring about the reality of that sign.

Maybe part of the miracle in tomorrow’s Gospel is the fact that the crowd realised that there was a large number of people present so in order that everyone would have enough to eat they had to make it their business to share the little they had.

Imagine if that ethos prevailed in our society, in our world. Can we really feel easy receiving the Eucharist while allowing one billion people on our planet to live close to destitution?

The Eucharist is about communion, communion with God, but that means communion with one another.

Is there really any point in “looking up” towards heaven if we do not play our part in bringing about the beginnings of the kingdom of God in this world, in the here and now in which we find ourselves living out our daily lives?

Well done to Lada Gaga for quoting Fr Duffell in pointing out how the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect. Indeed, it is anything but. Instead it is part of that sacramental story of the church to bring a broken and fractured world into the arms of an all-merciful God.

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