NOTHING PRIVATE ABOUT COMMUNION
HOMILY – CHRIST THE KING – 26 November 2017 [Matthew 25: 31-46]
Through this month we’ve been honouring our departed loved ones. Of course our memory of them is not confined to just one month. They’re never far from our thoughts or our conversation. There is, deep with us, a feeling that identifies with those we love; when they suffer we suffer with them, and when they die I sense that something inside of me has died as well.
This weekend 17 children celebrate their First Communion – another occasion easy to identify with. People say, I see these children and I see myself on my First Communion day. It’s a graphic reminder of a significant moment in our faith journey and a powerful example of how we see ourselves in others. This feast of Christ the King brings this out with remarkable intimacy.
Jesus identifies with people in any kind of need: the sick, the homeless, prisoners, those empty of food or hope, the unloved and the unwanted. These are the ones whose circumstances hold them in a deprived, powerless state, unable to thrive. Their human dignity damaged, their connection with others severed or severely weakened, they exist rather than live.
Last Sunday was the first World Day of the Poor, and in choosing the date Pope Francis was promoting a link with today’s festival of Christ the King who came to bring good news to the poor. By stepping into our human existence, Jesus offers a life-line: a way to reconnect, to re-identify – to rediscover the wonder of who we are. What a great gift to be able to offer – restoring dignity, recognizing uniqueness. I was hungry and you …; I was sick and you …! We miss someone because part of us goes with them; helping someone can lift our spirits because, in a real sense, we’re helping ourselves.
Pope Francis provides a very helpful insight when he asks us to see the “Our Father” as the prayer of the poor. He says: Our asking for bread expresses our entrustment to God for our basic needs in life. Everything that Jesus taught us in this prayer expresses and brings together the cry of all who suffer from life’s uncertainties and the lack of what they need.
The Eucharist is our gateway to the Bread of Life, but entry is conditional on our being consciously aware that we are with others – connected and committed to serving one another. The action of receiving Communion is not private or personal. When the Host is placed in your hand or on your tongue, you are receiving not just the Risen Christ, but everyone with whom he identifies – especially those who for whatever reason feel inadequate, lost, afraid or useless. These are the ones you embrace in your Communion with Jesus; this is the death Paul writes about [2nd Reading] – you lose yourself in them and you find yourself in the presence of Jesus. – Yes, we rejoice with our children on their First Communion Day. We are proud of them and glad for them. And we see ourselves in them.
But we must also be prepared to help them grow to understand that the real wonder of the Eucharist takes effect when it draws us into situations of need, where we become a listening ear or a forgiving heart, a welcoming word or a loving smile. We must let our Communion open us to the brokenness or hurt, suffering or rejection that lies in our path, or within ourselves, every day – that’s where the Eucharist ceases to be mystery and becomes PRESENCE.
Just as our beloved dead remain present to us, because they are part of us, Jesus comes to us in the form of food – identifying with something everyone needs for life, drawing us into one another’s company that we might in turn identify with him, his presence and his purpose, to love and to serve.