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6th Sunday of Easter – What Does It Mean to Be Church?

6th Sunday in Easter, Year C
Acts 15:1-2, 22-39
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
John 14:23-29
May 5, 2013

First Communion

What does it mean to be a church?

When you hear the word “church,” what do you think of?  Do you think of our building?  Do you think of the people you see here?  Do you think about what we do, such as Mass or service to the poor?

Note I said “what does it mean to be a church,” not what do we have to do as a church.

Being a church isn’t just about doing things or following the church rules.  Being a church is about being in Communion with God.

Jesus tells us that everyone who loves him, keeps his word.  Do we keep His Word?  Jesus speaks of how he and the Father are one and that the Holy Spirit will be sent together “proceeding from the Father and the Son.”  It is that same unity found in the Trinity that we see to have with God.

When we achieve this unity, we (as written in Revelation) ‘gleam with the splendor of God.”

Unity is key.

We are not meant to be just a bunch of individuals, each doing our own thing.  God created us to be in Communion with him and one another.  We are to work together to be church, to be what God calls us to be.

It isn’t easy to be in unity.  It never has been but the church has always made the efforts.  In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear today how they came together to discuss what was necessary to be part of the “new Christian Church.”

Did everyone need to be circumcised?  What about the food laws?  What foods could they eat?  Different groups were saying different things but they realized to be one church they needed to be of one accord.

They knew they were speaking about important issues, what it means to be church!

What does it mean for us to be a Catholic Church?

When we say “Catholic Church”, we can think of our buildings.  We can think of our hierarchy with deacons, priests, bishops, and a single pope.  This is part of who we are.

What I would like to speak about today is something I believe is absolutely central to understanding who we are as a Catholic Church.  The Eucharist.

We don’t just have the Eucharist to remember something from two thousand years ago.  We believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is made present through our celebration of the Eucharist.

We believe it is not just ordinary bread and wine that we receive.  It is the body and blood of Jesus.  It defines who we are.  You are what you eat.

So we can’t take reception of Communion lightly.  To come forth to receive Communion means we want to be in unity with God.  We want to become like Jesus..

This isn’t to say we are perfect.  When we sin we hurt (venial) or break (mortal) our relationship with God but God can fix that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we confess our sins, asking for His forgiveness.

Our reception of Communion says we want to be in unity with God; that we want to hear His Word to know how he calls us to live; that we want to follow him.

So as we come forth for Communion, we need to be serious.  It isn’t a time to be chewing gum.  We fast for an hour before receiving Communion to say we realize we are receiving something incredible in the Eucharist.

We don’t come forward for Communion in a free for all.  We come in graceful order.  We don’t pass the plate around in order to be reverent.

The very way we take Communion in our hand is to show reverence.  The minister holds up the host to show it to us and says “The Body of Christ.”  What is our reply?  “Amen.”  Amen means yes I believe.

What do we do with our hands?  We hold them out, one over the other, cupping them to receive the Eucharist, making a ‘little throne’ for Jesus.

Receiving Communion is a gift.  It is part of who we are as Catholics.  Thank God for this gift.

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