September 12, 2016
Today’s reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-33
The greatest manifestation of unity in the body is when members of the body partake of the one body of Christ, and that is in the Eucharist. To be worthy to participate in the Eucharistic meal, we must be one in mind and heart, conformed to Christ.
Unfortunately that is often not the case. Among the people of God receiving holy Communion, there are resentments, animosities, strife, factions, division. “First of all, I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you” (v.18a). These divisions are brought into the celebration of the Mass, with opposing Catholics even seated just pews apart. They are physically present at Mass, but not grasping the spirit ad essence of the Mass. “When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper” (v.20).
Paul brings us back to that great manifestation of unity, which is the Eucharist. “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (v.23-24). Jesus takes the bread, which is his body soon to be broken, and offers it as a symbol not of division but of unity.
Whenever we partake of holy Communion, Jesus reminds us of what he did for us, how he offered himself for our salvation, and how we must look forward to the life that is to come. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (v.26). At the end of the Mass we are sent off, to share Christ with everyone, to bring his salvation to all. We can only do so effectively if we are united as brethren, co-workers and comrades-in-arms.
We must consider all these whenever we celebrate the Eucharist. Otherwise, thinking we are doing well by attending Mass, we might actually be bringing condemnation upon ourselves. “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.” (v.27). We must search our hearts and discern our situation. “A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.” (v.28). This includes seeing the imperative for unity that is a hallmark of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Otherwise we will be judged severely. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning to body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (v.29).
The Eucharist is a great prod to unity, if only we truly understood its essence.
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