This weekend we begin our return to Sunday gatherings as a family of faith, the Body of Jesus, through our baptism into His death, to share our Sunday table and the meal of our Lord's Body and Blood.
It has been some time for us to break bread together, and many of our sisters and brothers, will still be hesitant to come to the table. Understandable, for sure, in the light of COVID; but this return does offer us an opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we are going.
As we gather this weekend, we are re-membering ... an act of rejoining …reforming ourselves as the body of Christ. Being together once again, we are sharing the stories of our salvation history. Why is that so important? Because practicing our rituals of memory, helps to remind us who we are, and whose we are!
These past three months posed the risk that we might forget what Sunday was all about and what was at stake, if we did forget these stories of our salvation history or continued to refrain from participating in the holy memory of the Lord's Eucharist. These past three months removed us from a pattern of worship and so we have fallen out of the rhythm of going to church or perhaps, unconsciously have found ourselves thinking … what difference did going to church and receiving make in the first place? I don’t notice anything different, God hasn’t struck me down, I'm no better or worse than before … in fact, maybe, I have found this ‘new extra’ time being put to other ‘more’ productive use- sleeping in, relaxing, getting a head start on things … what’s the point?
The point and what's at stake is nothing less than our very identity; as Christians, as disciples of the Lord.
If we forget the stories of salvation, we forget what God has done; what Jesus did in his public ministry and risk forgetting what we must do. In forgetting, we become another kind of people. A people who are focused on making money, having power, gaining prestige, selling and amusing ourselves to the Baal's of our time, until the time that death comes to us.
If we remember, we know what life is for and what to do with it; like the woman of Shunem who offered hospitality to a holy man of God.
Our life in Christ is very much a life lived with and for others. Our love for God must find expression in our love for human beings close and far: to notice and to give weight to our deep connection to people who are so different from us. To recognize in the face of the stranger our own reflection-as a child of God, someone who is beloved, some- one whose innate dignity demands respect regardless of the circumstances-is what Jesus asked of his followers then and is asking now. Building relationships is a conscious choice to engage authentically, that is, without a set agenda beyond the desire to get to know someone. It requires attention and time, both of which tend to be in low supply in our harried and hurried lives.
When we make room for others- in our hearts, in our work, in our home- we prepare the soil of our and their souls for an encounter with Christ. And that is evangelization at its best. Few hearts are won over by doctrine and dogma, but many are readied to hear and accept the good news because someone took time and attention to engage them, to invite them, and to make them feel that they belong. Human beings long to belong. Hospitality demands the openness and vulnerability of encounter. Both parties are changed by it. Exercising hospitality slowly transforms us into more Christ like disciples.
If we remember, we know what life is for and what to do with it; like Elisha the prophet, who spoke God’s word and offered God’s life; like Paul who reminded us of our identity as members of the body of Christ through the waters of Baptism, called to be priest- mediator of God’s mercy, prophet- voice of God’s justice to the widow, orphan, stranger, alien in our midst; king- trusted steward, using our skills and talents to build his kingdom on earth; like Jesus - to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters, whether, friend, stranger or enemy; to forgive, seven times seventy times; to strive to respond to Jesus' invitation: to be faithful and fruitful disciples; to be a Good Samaritan to (our) neighbor and enemy. So that in Jesus' name, we may be a welcoming community, respectful of life in all its diversities.
The Gospel message flies in the face of the culture of the World. The World's way is to divide, to take for oneself wealth, power, and influence … at the expense of the many. It makes little difference to those choosing the Way of the World whether others have access to what they need to grow and live life fully. When asked why he came, Jesus responds to the crowds and to us that he came that we may have life and have it more fully. To those who embrace the Way of the World, it makes little difference that others are enslaved. We think we have abolished slavery. Guess again! Slavery with chains of iron is obvious slavery and is still present; but chains are also made of poverty, disrespect, starvation wages, lack of access to health care, unfair taxation, unequal education systems, and a thousand other methods of suppressing and robbing others of vitality and opportunity. The Way of the World seeks to divide, and the solidarity of humanity is denied, as is the dignity and worth of those in the lower classes of society. Many people of faith believe there is nothing wrong with such enslavement; yet, if we hold as true that our God is a Trinity of three persons in a unity/community of love- we cannot exclude anyone from what gives us life and life more fully.
In light of COVID, in light of the racial discontent in the US, in the light of the economic recession, etc. more than ever, we need to remember, re-member and celebrate our identity and the sacredness of life, all life, in the Eucharist. The self- sacrificing act of love of the Lord's for humanity, you and me ... and we, to all who remember and have forgotten and wander in darkness.
The Body of Christ … So be it, I believe, Amen, Amen.
Welcome back to the table of the Lord.