You know – this is the fourth weekend since we started offering the cup to everyone at communion. On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, it seems like the perfect time to think about why we’re doing that… why go to all the trouble with all the extra ministers and wine? Why even bother? For me, it all goes back to what Jesus said, “Do this in Remembrance of me.” He said it twice at the last supper. “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Those are deep and powerful words…they’re right at the HEART of our Eucharistic celebration….but we hear it every time we come to Mass…so probably don’t hear it anymore – and haven’t given much thought to what it means.
In the most basic sense, remembrance is the act of remembering….to NOT FORGET. But – it’s more than that… in fact, in the Mass it’s MUCH more than that. If we think that this Mass is just about remembering what a great guy Jesus was, then we’ve missed the point completely – In fact, we may as well go down the street to any other church, because what we do here in the Catholic Mass goes WAY beyond just calling to mind our old buddy Jesus….wasn’t he a great guy!?
We all know the real meaning…we’ve all heard it before – but it didn’t sink in – or we have to be reminded. This bread and this wine look so ordinary, that it is hard sometimes to imagine or even comprehend that they physically become the body and blood of Christ in our Mass. It looks like bread – but it’s not! It tastes like wine – but it’s not! The scriptures make this most clear in the 6th chapter of John – where are Gospel was taken from today. Jesus says several times in this chapter "my flesh is true food" - "you must eat my body and drink my blook". He says over and over in several different ways, as if to emphasize that we should NOT let this important point slip by. As if he KNOWS that people will forget…. But he wants us to REMEMBER!
RE-MEMBER. Think about that word by itself. Re-member. Yes – it means to not forget… but it also is the opposite of DIS-MEMBER.
Shortly after high school, our rescue team responded to a wreck out on highway 66 – it was a head-on collision – which happened way too often. But what made this wreck stand-out in my mind was that I knew the girl in one of the cars – she had been in my class in school. And I remember that her leg had been broken – in fact, it was in a position that told me it basically had broken off. She had been DIS-MEMBERED. I felt so bad for her – a 20 year old lady with her whole life ahead of her – and she just lost her leg. To my utter amazement, however, the doctors were able to put it back on!! A year later, she was walking around – with a bit of a limp – but she was walking! I never would have thought it could happen… she had been DIS-MEMBERED…and I didn’t think there was hope for her… but the doctors put her back together… they RE-MEMBERED her.
You and I are members of a Body, aren’t we? Yeah - the Body of Christ. How many body parts are WE missing? How many members of our Body have we lost? How many of our brothers and sisters have walked away from the Table of the Lord – the very spot where He told us to RE-MEMBER him. But they have DIS-membered themselves. This meal we share is more than a memorial about Jesus, this is the very instrument through which we BECOME the Body of Christ. I know this is getting deep, but try to stick with me… Coming together for Mass is how we RESTORE the Body of Christ… in short… this is where we RE-MEMBER Jesus. We put HIM back together when WE, the members of this community, come back together.
A great example of this is at funerals – especially at the funeral home or the funeral meal. People sit around talking about the person that just passed away. We sit around and tell stories – the things we used to do together; the things he or she used to enjoy; the little sayings and odd behaviors they had that made them so special to our lives. As we reflect on these things, we are in the process of healing. We NEED healing because in one way, we have been dis-membered – because someone from our family or friends has been ripped away from us. It’s like losing a part of ourselves. But when we reflect on their stories, we RE-MEMBER them. We put them back together in our mind and for that time, they really ARE with us again.
The same thing happens in Mass – first we share the stories of Jesus as we hear the readings. We’re reminded of the things that Jesus said and did while he was here. By our reflecting on His stories, we RE-MEMBER him in our minds..we put him back together. He is here with us again.
Then it gets even better - we come to the altar where the body and the blood are consecrated. Did you ever notice that they are consecrated separately? – what do you think that’s about? Any symbolism there? What would happen to me if you if my blood was separated from my body? Plop... I'd die, of course. The separation of the body and blood symbolize Christ’s death – the sacrifice he made for our sake. The body of Christ has been broken and separated – but here’s the important part. Through the Mass and the Grace of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is put back together – at least two ways… first – and Fr. Bill talked about this a couple weeks ago - the Priest takes one little corner of the bread and drops it into the wine – In that moment, the body and blood are RE-UNITED… symbolizing that Christ overcame death. He is RE-MEMBERED, right there in the chalice. But there’s one more way that the body and blood are re-united… can you think of when it happens? At communion. We all come forward to receive the body and then we drink the blood…so in that moment, the body and blood are RE-UNITED INSIDE of us!! Christ is RE-MEMBERED IN US!!! Are you following me? We eat the body and we drink from the cup and therefore the body and blood are put back together INSIDE of us!! I think that's SOO cool! Both individually and as a community, We BECOME the body and blood of Christ. Communion is the very GRACE that Jesus gave us to rebuild the community - Communion is how the Body of Christ is Re-membered.
Look around…What members of our body are we missing? Who in our families and community have walked away? We need to remind them that we need them. We are walking around with a limp, because we’re missing part of our body. We need to remind them that they need us too! They NEED the Body of Christ. They need to be connected to Jesus. They have been dis-membered, but it’s not hopeless. Like the young lady in the car wreck, We need to bring them to the divine physician who can put us back together! We need to help THEM remember what they’re missing…. The very Body and Blood of Christ.