Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ - Being Remembered, and Remembering

We gather this weekend to remember and celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ. The Scriptures speak to us of covenant - of man's relationship to God, of God's enduring faithfulness to man - and we are reminded once again that when Jesus invites his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he invites each of us to take his life into the very center of our being. That life which he offers is the very life of God himself - the beginning of a "new" covenant, a new relationship between Creator and mankind.

The Gospel of Mark places the last supper meal in the context of Jesus' death and the coming of God's kingdom. Christ transforms the Passover of the old covenant into the meal of the "new Covenant in my blood". In the Old Covenant, bread and wine were offered in sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to their Creator. The unleavened bread at Passover and the miraculous manna in the desert are the pledge of God's faithfulness to his promises. The "cup of blessing" at the end of the Jewish Passover meal points to the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

But Jesus gives a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup of wine. He took a couple staples of everyday sustenance - Bread and Wine - and told His friends that each time they gathered together share this food and drink they would be consuming His body and blood - and that they should do this regularly so as not to forget him.

We all desire to be remembered, not to be forgotten. And Jesus was no different. He wanted his disciples, and all of us, to remember Him... to remember his words and actions, his compassion and love for the disenfranchised, his forgiveness and his steadfastness. But more than that, he wanted us to remember that God's promise will never be broken, will never be taken back.

In early Christian communities people met in their homes to share in this Eucharist, to give thanks and to remember. Today, we do not meet in homes. We do not recline at tables. For practical reasons we now gather in buildings constructed specifically for gathering and worship. We sit in a series of pews facing a sometimes distant table. We no longer consume anything that remotely looks or tastes like bread. At the Offertory we present perfectly round, flat, quarter-sized objects made of the ingredients of unleavened bread to the priest to consecrate and distribute as the congregation stands in lines.

Sometimes practicality demands compromise, and our manner of celebrating the Eucharist differs from place to place, from country to country. The language spoken at Mass is no longer a "universal" language. It is in the vernacular of the people. The music can range from traditional, to Gregorian to folk or modern.

Yet despite the fact that many may lament the way in which the Eucharist may be celebrated, there is no getting around the fact that 2000 years after that first Eucharist meal, we still gather in the millions each weekend and remember.

We remember Jesus, His compassion, His life, His forgiveness, His teachings, His miracles, and His love. Jesus wanted to be remembered - and He is.

The Eucharist is a gift, not just to be adored and reverenced, but also to be consumed, digested and lived by every Christian. What were once the simple gifts of bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of our Savior - the new covenant between God and mankind. It is not a private gift, but a communal one: an invitation not only to receive His Body and Blood, but also to become His Body and Blood for others.

At home, we gather around our family table not merely to eat and drink, but to be healed of anger, to be refreshed in our weariness, and to strengthen the bond of love and concern that makes us a family. So, too, Jesus invites us to gather around the table of the altar to give and receive reconciliation and forgiveness, to be filled with new strength when we have grown tired in our struggle to be witnesses to the Gospel, and to reinforce the oneness in faith and love that makes us a holy people, a "holy communion", a group of people bound together as His faithful followers.

Now, more than ever, we need to remember that if He is with us, nothing and no one can overpower us. We need to remember to how He has changed our lives - to make us less fearful and more courageous in our preaching of the Good News. We need to remember and understand - now and finally - that our lives will not end with death, and that we, too, are called to resurrection and the fullness of new, unending life.