Our series of homilies about the Mass are drawing to a close. Last week we continued to talk about the Communion liturgy as we receive Christ and make our way back to our places. It can’t be emphasized enough how important this part of the Mass is. This moment and the hearing of God’s Word are the exclusive reasons for the celebration of the Mass. God comes to us first, in the readings and the Gospel and then we call down the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The whole point of the epiclesis and the transubstantiation of the Eucharist is for us to receive it and to become what we have received.
There are many things to distract us from the fact of our carrying Christ within us and the person next to you. The Eucharist within us and our neighbors is the single most important part of Jesus ministry and desire that all may be one. Of course it is not easy to admit and react to ourselves and others as carriers of Christ. Dealing with our own messy humanity and the limited humanity of others, makes acknowledging the Christ within us and treating ourselves and others with the same respect we treat the Eucharist itself. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus wanted. Above all, to focus not so much on “the thing” of the Eucharist, but as the transforming energy it carries when we receive it.
It is our spiritual medicine. We take it, since that is what is made for and consuming it is the only way it can help us. We receive the Eucharist so that we can become Christ as well as recognizing him in us and those we are in communion with.
The last part of the Liturgy of Communion is the consideration of those who are ill or otherwise unable to join us physically. The early Church was keenly aware of keeping them connected to the faith community. Being physically ill is bad enough, but the separation and exclusion that is caused by an illness is just as, if not more painful than the illness itself. The early Church deliberately made sure that the sick were included in the particular community’s communion. After communion is concluded, we imitate the liturgy that the early Church practiced by having our Eucharistic Ministers to the homebound come forward and receive the Eucharist that they will take as an extension of our parish and our communion to those who are unable to be with us physically.
This short liturgy is a sending forth of our parish’s representative to go to the sick and include and enfold them into our community, their community. Sacraments are not secret events done in private. They are intrinsically public/community events, that should be witnesses and participated in. It is important for the rest of us to see that we are including the homebound and to be reminded that not all of our members are with us because of their illness. Communion means bonded together in faith, community and in the desire to carry Christ with us.
Rev James Kirby