Many of the values that have shaped our lives, many of the beliefs that we hold dear, were learned at one special place – the family dinner table. At that table, many of us learned our politics as mom and dad, and many extended family members and guests, held forth on the glories and evils of issues of justice, taxes, duties and responsibilities, platforms and policies.
At same table we learned our story – the journeys of our parents and grandparents and great grandparents from small villages and cities across the seas to that table. There, we also came to realize how hard our parents worked to provide all that was necessary for our growth and development.
It was there that we first learned how to share, and about our responsibility to serve others before ourselves. That table was also a place of affirmation, support and unconditional love – love that was both given and returned. At that table my school project was as important as dad’s new contract, and my sister’s role in the school play was celebrated with Mom’s birthday.
Despite whatever traumas or pains or grief we were experiencing, that table was the one place where we always belonged, a place of safety, forgiveness and welcome, the place where we could be “family” to one another.
Christ calls us to his table, offering the same peace, affirmation, support and love. We come to the Eucharist to celebrate our identity as his disciples, to seek the sustaining grace to live the hard demands of such discipleship.
Through the appropriate use of word, action, and symbol, we call to mind and become one with the mighty deeds of God. God’s action of creation, liberation, mercy, salvation, and healing are not frozen in time but continue to be made present again and again for each new generation. It is we who are now liberated and healed. Ritual and liturgical celebration call to mind and heart what God has done. But just as important, liturgy and ritual remind us that God is at work in our lives and in our history of the community. Memory is never just a passive calling to mind of past events. It is the active living and awareness of God being God in the here and now of heart and history.
In this great sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, we are connected to our brothers and sisters in faith of generations past and to those who will gather around this altar years from now. This bread and cup also make of us a community with all those all over the world - from gatherings around the altars of magnificent cathedrals to those huddled around scraps of bread in dirty prisons. Regardless of the venue and the circumstances, the Lord welcomes us all and all we are – we come with all our joys and sorrows, hurts and despair, to be fed and nourished at the great banquet of his body and blood.
Christ wants to be with us. He wants to give himself completely to us. “For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.”
In the Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II reminds us: “In the sign of the consecrated Bread and Wine, Christ Jesus risen and glorified, the light of the nations [cf. Lk. 2:32], reveals the enduring reality of his Incarnation. He remains living and real in our midst in order to nourish the faithful with his Body and Blood.”
To remember the good and holy deeds of God means that we are called to do good and holy deeds in our lives. The more one does, the more one becomes. That is, in doing acts of justice and mercy, we become more like the God of justice and mercy. The concern of God for the poor, powerless, rejected, enslaved, and wretched must be shared by those who are part of the covenant of remembrance.
God’s continual, abiding love and generosity for the poor and the broken-hearted, is carried by his people. Each person becomes a living sacrament – a revelation – of God’s merciful, caring love. It is through our working for justice, freedom and peace that the divine becomes present and visible in the midst of the secular. If we do not remember, we cannot act. And if there is no action for justice and mercy, then we no longer remember what God did.
So that there may be a renewed commitment to Christian witness in the world in this new millennium, let faith be refreshed, hope increase and charity exert itself still more. You are invited to celebrate the millennium by attending Alberta’s Catholic Conference 2000: Living the Eucharist from March 17 -19, 2000.
☩ Frederick Henry