28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Psalm 23;1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Throughout our readings today we hear of feasts “of rich food and choice wines,” how the Lord will spread the table before us, and supply whatever we need.
Isaiah speaks of “God to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked.”
Jesus speaks in the context of a wedding feast. The context of the wedding goes with the image of Christ as the bridegroom who marries his bride, the church.
Going back to what Isaiah said about the “Lord to whom we looked,” the Israelites were waiting for a messiah. Jesus is the Messiah and the bridegroom. Now is the time for the wedding feastbut not all accept Jesus. Some of the Israelites simply seem to “ignore” Jesus while others attack him.
So, in turn, God invites “whomever” his servants can find to the feast (but we still need to be ready).
The Book of Revelation provides imagery of a great banquet in Heaven. One day we will share in that banquet but we do not have to wait for Heaven to receive “rich food and choice wines.” The Lord provides a feast for us right now, a feast that strengthens us with the Bread of Life.
This feast is, of course, the Eucharist! It is the gift we celebrate in our Year of the Eucharist. It is the bread and wine that become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus. As a little piece of bread, it offers little earthly nourishment. As a sip of wine, it does little to quench our earthly thirst. Yet, as the Body and Blood of Jesus it gives us grace in abundance.
We can’t see the bread and wine change but we know it to be so because of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper that we hear every time we celebrate the Eucharist, “THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD.”
What we celebrate in the Eucharist is not just a play that remembers a historical event nor is it a new event. It is God making present today in a way only he can, what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago as he celebrated the Passover together with the sacrifice of his life on the Cross for us.
Recognizing the sacredness of what is going on, we celebrate the Eucharist with a reverence that shows our recognition of the sacredness of what we celebrate in the Eucharist.
We kneel throughout the Eucharistic Prayer to show our recognition of the sacredness of the sacrifice we celebrate as the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus.
We stand during the Lamb of God as a sign of how we are raised up by the sacrifice that Jesus makes on the Cross for us.
Then we again kneel to show our humility and surrender before God as we say “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Then we stand to come forward for Communion. Our physical action of coming forward indicates our desire to come to Jesus.
Then, we bow just before we receive Jesus as one final sign that we recognize it is Jesus our King that we receive.
The minister holds up the consecrated host and says, “The Body of Christ.” We reply “amen.” The word “amen” means “I believe” so we are professing that we believe it is the Body of Christ.
To receive we hold our hands one over the other to make a throne to receive Jesus. Receiving on the hand was not new with the changes of the Second Vatican Council. It is the way the early church offered Communion. The symbolism of making a throne with our hands to receive Jesus is found in the writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century.
If one chooses to receive on the tongue, one shouldn’t just open their mouth a little like one might to receive medicine that we can’t stand the taste of. One is to open their mouth wide to welcome Jesus in.
Whether we receive on the hand or the tongue, we consume the consecrated host immediately without taking any steps to help ensure we don’t drop the host or any crumbs.
Then, the Blood of Christ is offered in the chalice. The minister says, “The Blood of Christ” to which one receiving says “Amen” again signifying belief that it truly is the Blood of Christ. We do so carefully so as not to spill any of the Precious Blood. The cup minister wipes the cup after each person with a purificator, a cloth that is used for this alone and no other purpose (again recognizing the sacredness).
Recognizing our desire to avoid dropping any of the Precious Blood is why we do NOT intinct. Intinction is to lower the consecrated host into the consecrated wine. This can result in spillage of the wine. There are Eastern Rite churches that receive by intinction but it is the priest who does the intinction and then gives Communion on a spoon in the mouth. (Incidentally, it would also mean anyone who can’t receive the gluten in the host would not be able to receive the wine for fear of a small piece of the host remaining.)
Then, we return to our pews and kneel, humbly offering a prayer of thanksgiving. It is important for us to take this time (avoiding the temptation to leave immediately to rush off somewhere else) to offer our gratitude for what God gives us in the Eucharist.
Then, we sit after the distribution of Communion before standing (rising) for the final prayer, recognizing how God lifts us up in what we receive in the Eucharist. Then, we have the final blessing as we are sent out into the world to glorify the Lord by our lives.