In our first reading today, Moses reminds the people of Israel of how God led them through the desert (40 years); he talks about the long journey. The purpose of that long journey was to help the people remember who their Lord and God is. When they were enslaved, God freed them. When they were hungry, God fed them. When they were alone, God accompanied them. When they were thirsty, God gave them water. When alone in the wilderness, God stood by them and protected them. They did not understand or appreciate the ways of God, but all that happened was for their own GOOD, even though they did not see it at the time!
In Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, Jesus reveals that he is the bread of life; he bread for their hunger and wine for their thirst; his flesh and blood will provide for them. In the same way God provided for the people of Israel long ago, God is providing for you today; in a new way. Your ancestors did not appreciate the bread and water they received, the protections they received; will you appreciate what you are being given today? Jesus promises that those who eat and drink of his Body and Blood will live forever! This is a new teaching, a new promise. Will they trust it?
In our second reading, Paul asks the Corinthians, “Is not the bread we eat and the cup we drink, is it not a sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ?” He leaves that question for them to ponder. Paul reminds them that because there is one bread and one Body – we are One.
I have celebrated mass almost every day since I was ordained (37 years). When I consider those masses and all the people who took part in those liturgies I wonder; I wonder what they hoped for, what they were expecting to see, to hear, to do at mass.
During this pandemic we have been sharing in the mass online or on TV. Hundreds of people have taken part in this mass, virtually. Some have watched and made comments. Some have clicked on one of the available emojis. Some have sung along, some have spoken the responses as if they were at mass, some have sat and stood and prayed aloud and some have simply watched; silently taking it all in.
People have told me, that from this community, the mass has been shared in other parts of Saskatchewan. People from Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, and from countries around the world, have shared in the celebration of the Eucharist, reminding us that we are one Body. As this virtual mass ended, we have made every effort to take the Word we have heard and put it into practice. Even though we were not physically present in this space, we were touched by God, we connected with others and in response, we reached out to family and friends and strangers.
If you are comfortable doing so, I invite you to type in the comment section, your nearest town or city. Let your brothers and sisters , who are taking part in this liturgy virtually, experience firsthand the wonder of the Body of Christ. We have been brought together by Jesus Christ. Our image of what Church is has grown. It goes far beyond Meadow Lake, Green Lake and Waterhen Lake. We are a wonderful mix of people – of language, race, age, orientation, way of life and system of beliefs! We, all of us, are the Body of Christ. We, all of us, are the Blood of Christ
As we prepare to gather physically, in limited numbers, we are invited to ask ourselves, ‘what am I expecting to think, feel, see?’ Will we recognize in the proclamation of the Word, the very presence of God? Will we recognize in the masked people who are 2 meters distant from me, the presence of God? Will we recognize in the priest who now celebrates so differently, the presence of God? When we silently receive the host, gently placed in our hands, will we recognize the Body of Christ and what this gesture means? When our movements, postures and gestures are changed and limited, our songs silenced and our Church space modified, will we recognize the God who cannot be contained or completely understood?
Or will we who are so devotedly Catholic, be so disturbed by the changes that our reaction will prevent us from believing and praying and celebrating? Will we forget that the God who communicates in and through such ordinary means is much more than a place, a space, a language, and a way of doing things!
The liberation from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land was so not what the people of Israel had imagined. The manna was not like the food they were used to! God gave it as food! God’s idea of protection was so different from their idea of protection. Jesus was so not like the messiah they were expecting. Jesus proclaimed that he was the new liberation – not from a country or a leader, but liberating the people from sin and death. Jesus proclaimed his Body and his Blood, his way of being, was the new food the people needed if they were to really live. Jesus proclaimed that something new was happening. And what was the response of the people? They struggled to believe.
Paul said our sharing the Eucharist is a sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ – the very life of God. Paul said, because we share this One Bread, this Body and Blood, we are one Body, we are ONE people.
When we come to Eucharist, virtually or physically, many things will be different. God is inviting us to be liberated, to be changed, to become one with him, to be his Body and Blood for the life of the world. I cannot share in this Eucharist except that I walk away a different person. If I come to mass to feed me – God will encourage me to feed others. If I come to mass to feed others – God will feed me. If I come to mass so I can change you – God will invite me to change. When I come to mass and allow God to change me, I will go out and you will see a difference.
God knows what we are up against today. God is alive in our world; feeding us in marvelous ways. He feeds me when:
During this pandemic, God has asked us, not to come to Church but to be CHURCH, to be ONE BODY, to be his Body and Blood, feeding one another.
As we (some of us) prepare to return to our Church buildings, we imagine returning to what was; to that which is familiar. It is not going to happen. We cannot go back. While we will receive his physical Body, which is not an end in itself but a reminder that God is feeding us, here in this Building and in the world beyond these walls; feeding us, that we might feed one another, our lives are no longer the same. There will be no return to what was. Our lives will be new and our Future will be new!
God is pleased when we come and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. God is pleased when we become Body and Blood, food for those around us who hunger and thirst. We don’t get to heaven because we are perfect. We get to heaven because we have become ONE BODY, caring for and feeding those who are most in need in the world around us.
Let us ask our God to make of us, his Body and his Blood!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI