These days are called “grave times” in the Catholic Church. (What days aren’t called “grave times!?”)
So now it’s time for “grave measures.” So from now on…
–If you’re in the state of sin….”no host”
–If you’ve told a lie and apologized but without confession…”no host”
–If you remarry without an annulment and have your reception at Alioto’s…”no host” (Alioto’s is strictly for funerals, never weddings,) so I say again to you…”no host.”
Like the political conventions with their repeating refrain, your response to my litany needs to be, “no host.” Ready?
- If you enter Mass after Michael’s Opening Song…
- If you co-habitate and co-pay the utility bills…
- If you don’t tip the usher during the Offertory collection…
- If you don’t shake hands with person behind you…
- If you don’t Purell yourself after shaking anyone’s hand…
- (sigh) If you leave before the final blessing…
- If you roll your eyes during any of my sermons…
- If you are any part of LGBT (and I don’t even know what those letters mean but it just sounds wrong)…
We’ve done it. We actually have done it. We’ve done it before so we’ll try it again. What’s the “it?” We’ve made the “it” out of the Body of Christ. We’ve made the “Body of Christ” a commodity. The Body of Christ is for sale and it has a price tag attached to it…as in your life and behavior.
What was intended to be “enriching and grace-giving” for us has retarded down to be a “treat,” a “reward” for good behavior. Much like you treat your dog with its waging tale and eagerly open mouth.
Past tense: a reward is, for something you’ve done that has earned you something, like the Body of Christ. Using the Body of Christ as “bait” is another tool to get the desired prey, you being the prey.
Future tense is the “enriching and grace-giving” Body of Christ providing you with the daily or often received food you need to be the somebody that God created you to be; in other words, to become what you’ve received, the Body of Christ.
The Church seems to prefer the “past tense” version based on a “treat” mentality. I prefer the “future tense” of what this powerful sacrament initiates and ignites in our lives.
(I delivered a similar message about this 6 years ago on Corpus Christi Sunday, it’s on my old blog but the timing appears timeless.)
“Reward or grace? Is communion intended to be a type of dog treat for those who are doing a good job or is it intended to be a source of efficacious grace. (I love the word efficacious although there are not many opportunities to use in a typical day.) Actually, “efficacious grace” is redundant. Grace can only influence a desired result as defined by efficacious. Sinners and those slightly off the path need the Eucharist more than ever. Instead of denying politicians communion, the bishops should be saying “You need to receive communion much more frequently than you presently are. You need the grace of the sacrament to help you in your discernment and judgments.”
Is it our preparation toward the Eucharist that makes it a “reward” or is it the reception that prompts better behavior and links us closer to Jesus that makes it “grace-filled”? It may sound like the “chicken or the egg” argument but I think it makes a world of difference when it comes to religion. Did Jesus care about the 99 or was his primary just that one person, one person?
People still ask me that immortal question, “Father I received communion this morning, can I go again this afternoon at the wedding?” “Absolutely not,” I say, “you’ve already had your treat.” (Can you hear my tongue stuck in my cheek?…) I’ve never said but many times tempted.
I know I’m only a situational priest here. I know many of your faces but so very few of your names. If you asked me to tell you your name, you’d be sorely disappointed. The Body of Christ is the gift of Christ himself and no matter who you are or what you believe or what part of something somewhere in the Church that you don’t believe or don’t quite understand – this Body of Christ, this simple wafer that is quickly handed to you in a long line of waiting people – is exactly and precisely what Jesus Christ meant you to receive.
At the end of the bread’s consecration prayer I say, “which is given up for you.” Notice the ending pronoun, it is “you.”
At the end of the wine’s consecration I say, “do this in memory of me.” Notice the ending pronoun, it is Christ. It is the union of you and Jesus Christ within a community of us all struggling people. Each in our own way but lived and offered to God through the Eucharist.
And that long line we stand in is the “Body of Christ” exemplified by our reception. We receive on behalf of ourselves and we also receive to represent the whole of our community. During your waiting in line – please think first about someone or something in need of God’s grace and then, secondly, think of your concerns. For many years now, I’ve never lifted the Chalice without dedicating the elevation to someone or someplace else. We are in this world together with, through and in Christ – even in our own selfishness, our own sinfulness or those judgments of others by you and me.
Please pardon a bit of theology this early morning. The “Body of Christ” we receive is not a symbol. A symbol points to something else, it never represents itself. The Boys Scout logo points to its eager young learners, the cross of Christ points to his life given for us.
In the Catholic Church, the “Body of Christ” is called the “real presence” because it points to nothing or anyone except its eating, its reception by us this day. Our good friends the protestants believe it to be a symbol and God bless them for it but for us Catholics, it’s what Coca Cola called, “the real thing.” No bishop or priest can tell you when or when not to receive this wafer containing “enriching, grace-filled” energy of God’s love and mercy. It was not theirs to give so it cannot be theirs to deny or take away. (repeat) It is the “Body of Christ.”
That is unless of course, “You roll your eyes during any of my sermons…”
We gotta have rules!
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