I read an article years ago in which the author said that there is one group of people in the early church whom we have failed to thank, the drunks of the church in Corinth. He goes on to say that is was their scandalous behaviour that caused Paul to write this letter to the community in Corinth. Just before today’s reading Paul wrote: “now in the following instructions I do not commend you because when you come together it is not for the better but for worse.” We have to remember that the Eucharist of Paul’s time had little in common with the way we celebrate Eucharist today. In Paul’s time the Eucharist was at a community meal, something like a pot luck dinner at which people shared their food. At some point is this community meal the scriptures were read – that would be the Hebrew scripture because ours weren’t written yet – and the action of Jesus at his last supper was repeated and communion was celebrated.
Paul was not happy with some of these community meals and he didn’t commend what was happening, Paul writes, “when you come together as a church it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper for when the time come to eat each of you goes ahead with your own supper and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk… you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing.”
Then Paul reminds them of what he himself had received from the church and handed on to them as he formed the Christian community in Corinth: “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread and when he had given thanks broke it and gave it to his disciples and said ‘This is my body that is for you, do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper, he took the cup saying, ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” That’s why that author says we owe a vote of thanks to those who misbehaved at the community meal because the way they were eating and drinking caused scandal in the community by ignoring the needs of the poor and Paul wanted to set things straight by writing this letter to the community in Corinth.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist in its relation to the whole series of events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ we think of the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament as the focus of prayer and contemplation. Our church is always open for people to come and spend time in peace and quiet before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to praise and thank him for his love for us and place before him our worries and our pains. We accept his invitation, “come to me all you who find life burdensome and I will refresh you.”
The Eucharist is central to the life of the Church, it is central to our life as a parish. It is good to remember that the Eucharist, this Mass, is not a private devotional prayer, it is a community celebration.
At every Mass we are involved in a communal act of worship which, among other things, calls us to go forth and live out in the world what we celebrate inside of a church. That’s why we pray every Sunday, “may we live this Mass outside these walls.” Our communal worship reminds us of the non-importance of social distinction and the special place that God gives to the tears and blood of the poor, and the non-negotiable challenge from God to each of us to work at changing the conditions that cause the oppression and exploitation of the world poor. These good people are not numbers or statistics; they are our brothers and sisters. The Eucharist calls us to love tenderly, but, just as strongly, it calls us to act in justice.
Jesus, our bread of life gives us the openness to see him in every person who comes into our lives. Jesus, our bread of life, calls us to be conscious of the poor and needy men, women and children of our city and to do what we can to work for justice. Jesus, our bread of life, reminds us – whatever you do to one these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me. May we live this Mass outside these walls.
We pray for ourselves and for each other that nourished by the Bread of life we may have the strength to live this Mass outside these walls.