Saturday, May 4, 2013
As we continue in our celebration of Easter we are reminded that the celebration of Easter is a celebration of what it is that happened and what it is that we just celebrated in its constitutive parts two weeks ago - the Paschal Mystery, which is to say: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Paschal Mystery is at the center of every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Why is this so important to keep in mind, especially these next two weekends in our Tri-Parish Catholic Community? It is important because in our reception of Holy Communion we are being made participants in that one, holy sacrifice of Christ.
This comes from the Old Testament covenant sacrificial rituals and in particular the greatest covenant sacrifice of all: the Passover. The instructions for the slaughter of the Passover Lamb included who was to eat of this sacrifice. Those who ate of the sacrifice became part of the covenant community of Israel with all the rights, duties, and privileges that this entailed. Those who were not part of the covenant community or who did not desire to be part of the covenant community were not included in either the sacrifice or the eating of the sacrificial lamb that followed.
This is also seen in the Old Testament as well as the histories of the early apostolic Church wherein the pagans, especially the Greeks in the time of the Maccabees (and Alexander the Great) and the Romans in the time of the Apostles and pre-Constantinian Church Fathers, would sacrifice to the “gods” and would then try to force the Israelites or early Christians to eat meat from the animal sacrificed. While in the case of the Israelites, whom they tried to force to eat pork which was “unclean” and therefore strictly forbidden, it was a matter of ritual purity, for both Israelites and Christians it was a recognition that in eating of this meat they would be making a public statement rejecting the living God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob in favor of the pagan gods.
So, you see, when we come forward to partake of the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”, we are not just participating in some ritual that looks very similar to that which is undertaken in many Christian communities. By coming forward to receive the living Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Jesus Christ, we are making a public statement of belief and participation in His eternal sacrifice and in the Covenant Community which He has established in his own blood. When we receive Communion in a Catholic Church we are proclaiming that we are “of one mind and heart” with Christ and with his Church including the teachings of that Church along with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and our bishop, William, who continue to teach in the name of Christ.
I once asked a fellow, who complained that because he and I were in conflict that I shouldn’t greet him when he came to my parish church for funerals and such, why it was then that he came up to receive Communion when he was not, in fact, even desiring to be “in communion” with the pastors of the Church. The next time there was a parish social he invited me to join him and his wife at the table. HE GOT IT! I hope that we will all be mindful of this important lesson the next time we try not to sit around someone we aren’t getting along with, or refuse someone the sign of peace. We who partake of the one loaf and the one cup are indeed one body in Christ.
Think about this as we celebrate the first reception of Holy Communion of our children and help them to always remember: What am I doing when I receive Communion at Mass?
Pray well and remember who you are!