Rituals are a common everyday occurrence in our lives.
There are academic rituals, such as commencements and convocations.
Common civil rituals include inaugurations or speeches like
the State of the Union Address.
Family rituals are numerous, from birthday parties and Sunday dinners
to…tending the graves of loved ones on Memorial Day.
Religious rituals are just as numerous and…oh-so-important.
Rabbi Vanessa Ochs has written about the importance of rituals.
She says rituals “offer ways for emotion to be contained and channeled …
bring structure to complicated and dramatic social changes …
offer a sense of belonging …
affirm the identity of the individual within the community …
connect us to groups …
suggest a deeper world of meaning beyond the mundane habits of the everyday … transcend time,
connecting us to our ancestors and to those who will come after us …
address our need for belonging and emotional reassurance …
help us to live out our values.”
Perhaps that last one – helping us to live out our values – is what
Jesus had in mind in Paul’s memory of the Last Supper,
when he wrote that Jesus 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.”
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The Words of Consecration are the cornerstone around which every Mass is built. This was Jesus’ commandment to the twelve assembled with him,
and each time they echoed his words,
they not only reaffirmed their belief that Jesus died and rose again for our sins, BUT they shared with all gathered around them,
their commitment to their faith,
their beliefs and their VALUES.
When we participate in this ritual of the Church
and celebrate the Eucharist of the Lord,…
as the rabbi proposed:
Do we…?? find ways for emotion to be channeled …
To bring structure to social changes …
To affirm our identity within the community …
Do we…?? connect to groups …
sense…a deeper meaning beyond the everyday …
Do we…?? connect to our ancestors and to those who will come after us …
(pause) For most of us…the answer would be…YES.
‘BUT’ Jesus wanted the Celebration of the Eucharist to be MORE than a ritual.
He wanted ‘IT’ to have lasting impact,
to continually motivate us to lead more Christ-like lives in service to others,
to inspire us to be more forgiving of the weaknesses and faults of others,
and of our ‘OWN’ faults and weaknesses.
Through the Celebration of the Eucharist,
Jesus wanted ‘US’ to love and share our faith and beliefs with those around us,
so they, too, could come to know the peace and understanding
that fills our hearts and minds,
and to live our values.
We come to the table with our joys,
our thanks, our hurts,
our doubts, our crises, our griefs.
Some days we come with grateful hearts and
some days we come broken and distraught;
other times we come gratefully aware of God’s presence in our lives —
and at times we come wondering ‘IF’ God is really here.
- But we come ß
Because we know that every time we come, the miracle happens.
Jesus feeds the crowd — “US’.
Nora Gallagher writes in The Sacred Meal:
“Communion is meant to be done…together;
it has to be done in community.
You can pray alone and fast alone.
You can even go on pilgrimage alone.
But you can’t take Communion alone . . .
Communion forces us to be with others [and] stand with them . . .
We are forced to be with strangers and people we don’t like,
persons of different colors and those with bad breath.
We are stuck with each other, at that altar,
at least for a few minutes.”
And that’s what enables the ‘REAL’ miracle to happen:
The Eucharist transforms us
from a collection of diverse, disconnected souls
into a community of faith.
We come here with our struggles and doubts
and pains and sorrows and,
if the Eucharist is what Jesus intended it to be,
we find support and compassion
FROM those who come to the table with us.
Today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
celebrates our call by Jesus
who fed the multitudes
to be both ‘guest’ and ‘waiter’
participant and host
at the banquet of God.