MEDITATION ON HOLY MASS
Do this to remember me
The God of Scripture invites us to be holy, as he is holy, and holiness and justice walk together. But holiness is not something that simply happens. It is practised until it becomes habit. And one of the practices that shape us for justice as a church is that of Communion.
Action for the week
This week, every time you eat bread, place a donation in a basket to be taken to a local foodbank. Every time you drink wine (or tea, or coffee) set aside money to be given to a clean water/sanitation project abroad.
Scripture holds deep wisdom about humanity. From the early times of the people’s Exodus from Egypt, they were told to remember the stories and the reasons for the stories. To help them remember, they were given words and actions to perform together. When you learn a sport, or a musical instrument, you develop muscle memory, which takes over so you do not need to think about what you need to do. In the words and actions we repeat in worship, we develop spiritual and ethical memory that can sustain and shape our lives.
The instructions about Holy Communion give a pattern for the life of the community: gather together, share a simple meal between equals, between companions, as all eat and drink of the same simple fare, gathered around Jesus. How can this ‘muscle memory’ shape our lives more widely?
All-seeing God, teach us to see the Body as you see the Body: never to ignore, dismiss or exclude any of your people but accept that we hold bread and wine in common with all your children. Amen.
Discerning the body goes hand-in-hand with honesty. In most churches, Holy Communion is preceded by a time of confession. Confession is an invitation to truth-telling, to acknowledge our need of God’s salvation in every possible area of our lives.
In practice, however, confession is often reduced to those things we do that we have the power not to do, or do differently. But the truth of our humanity goes far beyond this. It encompasses those things we have no power over: the systems we are part of and condone or profit from. If we confess our sins together then our truth-telling has to be more than the sum of our individual sin and brokenness. Confession together is an invitation to acknowledge the brokenness, injustice and sin of the world and its systems, of our nations, our churches and communities, and asking God to lead us into better ways.
God of all truth, show us the things we would rather ignore in our lives, soften our hearts, and lead us into newness of life. Amen.
Holy Communion gathers together the entire story, and retells it through words and actions. It is uncompromisingly truthful about the reality of sin and injustice, and the cost of dealing with them.
Holy Communion proclaims that the body of Christ was broken, and it is only through that brokenness that we can be gathered in truth and justice. The practice of Holy Communion is a clear safeguard against triumphalism, or the kind of heroism that seeks to overcome injustice through sheer power.
Holy Communion shapes us for justice because it reminds us, again and again, that the way of justice goes through the cross.
As we are sent out, at the end of a service, to “love and serve the Lord”, it is a call to go, not in our own strength, but a call to follow Christ and his example of costly compassion.
Communion as a glimpse of the Kingdom
Read: Luke 24: 13-35
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Holy Communion calls us to deep encounter with the Risen Christ, whose earthly life and death are not the final word, and whose resurrection makes his presence possible with us. Just like the disciples on the Emmaus road, we are invited to let Scripture and the breaking of the bread interrupt our present and reshape our direction of travel. As we encounter Christ, our hearts are inevitably directed towards the world he came to save.
And as we seek to love as Jesus did, the very words and actions of Holy Communion, with their radical call to equality and justice, challenge us to interrogate our lives within and without the community of faith. As Archbishop Michael Ramsey once wrote, “The supreme question is not what we make of the Eucharist, but what the Eucharist is making of us, as together with the Word of God it fashions us into the way of Christ.”
Risen Christ, may we know your presence on the way, and let ourselves be fashioned into a people of truth, compassion and justice in our words, deeds and relationships. Amen.