Eucharist: A Sign of Unity? Or, A Sign of Fragmentation?

When Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record, many argued that the new record of 61 homeruns in a baseball season should be marked with an asterisk … * … Babe Ruth hit 60 homeruns when baseball had 154 games in a season.  When Roger Maris hit 61 homeruns, there were 162 games in a season.  After 154 games, Maris had 59 home runs.

Maris hit his 61st homerun on the last day of the season, in the 162nd game.  Therefore, while he hit more homeruns, it took more games.  Therefore critics said, his “record” should be marked as 61*.

For so long, the Eucharist has been seen as a sign of unity — many grains to make one bread.  One bread, one body.  Many parts, but one body.

The Eucharist was seen as “food for the sinner.”  No one was “worthy” that the Lord would come under “our roof.”

Today, for too many church leaders, the Eucharist is held up as a “reward for those who are orthodox.”  Cultural warriors have wanted to withhold the Eucharist from those who hold positions contrary to the Church — notably, abortion.  This question was brought forth loudly when John Kerry, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi — Catholics — were running for election.

Bishop Thomas Proprocki of Springfield, IL has been the most recent of the cultural warriors to tell those who do not support the Church’s anti-abortion policy to refrain from the communion table.

Perhaps today we ought to write:  Eucharist: Sign of Unity*

There are dioceses in the US that have proclaimed that the Marty Haugen song, “All are welcome” should not be sung at mass.

For me, this attitude seems to “fly in the face of” Isaiah 55 (Easter Vigil) which tells all who are hungry or thirsty to come and to eat and drink.  Those who come forward, can do so without worry about money.

When Jesus fed the 5,000 — I am sure there was quite a variety of folks present — some who were there simply for curiosity — while many others came because they were interested in hearing what Jesus had to say.  There must have been kind and caring people in the crowd — mixed with those with questionable “reputations.”

If we believe that the “last supper” was the “first mass” — then Jesus gave communion to Peter who would in a few hours deny him three times — as well as to Judas who would betray him.  Even with knowledge of what Peter would do — and what Judas would do — Jesus still shared the bread and cup with both of them.

I wholeheartedly believe that the Eucharist is a sacred time of prayer.  I believe the Eucharist should be prayed with dignity and respect.  The Eucharist is not a picnic or a tailgate party. It bothers me that anyone might come to the table casually/automatically.  I want everyone to be aware of what and who they are receiving.  But, I am not sure that I or anyone can really judge the human heart or determine the worthiness of one person over another.

Everyone of us — each of us — should look into our hearts each time we participate in Eucharist.  Is our mood openness or closed-mindedness?  Are we holding on to anger, prejudice, or judgments?  Do I support the Church’s teaching on Capital Punishment, Universal Health Care, Immigration?  Did I put others at risk by driving and texting or “under the influence?”  Was I a bad example to children around me? Did I judge the person who came to mass, failed to genuflect “properly”, then sat down without kneeling to say a prayer?

If I keep adding to the list of exclusionary behaviors or attitudes — then few of us could approach the Table of Plenty.

During the June meeting of the U.S. Bishops in Baltimore, Bishop Robert Barron (Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles — and known for his videos and books — The Word on Fire) reported to the Bishops that 50% of those people 30 years of age and younger, who were baptized Catholic, now identify as “NONE”, when asked to claim a religion.  He called for better teaching the truths of our faith — and teaching our young people how to defend the faith and to answer our critics (apologetics).  I agree with Bishop Barron that we can always do a better job of educating others about our faith.  HOWEVER, I believe Bishop Barron addresses only one part of the human person — the intellect –while ignoring the heart.

Many years ago our Church was big into a “Come Home for Christmas” evangelization effort.  But, when people came “home”, they did not always feel at home.  For too many, it was:  glad you are here, welcome!  Now, as soon as you get your marriage blessed, then you can come to communion — OR –once you get an annulment and get your marriage blessed — the you can come to communion.  So — it was “welcome home — BUT, you cannot come to the table.”

Or,  someone raised Catholic — and now living a gay lifestyle — it was — glad you are here —— but, there’s a problem with the way you are LIVING the way you are.

Or, people came back to the church to find dull preaching, poor music, and no sense of community life.  Church was a place to go — not a place to be.

I would like to see the Church as a “symphony of different sounds” — a community of different sounds — a communion of different sounds.

If we become what we eat — then cannot the Eucharist — the living Christ change the human heart and mind?  Telling someone to stay away from the ONE THING that might help them to change [grow] might actually bring about the opposite result of what is desired.

hjm

About thegospelforliving

Retired Catholic Priest - now serving the community as a paralegal and charter school consultant.
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