Today we recognise and celebrate the fact that the presence of God with us is to be found in a very tangible, material way. Christ’s presence to his people is a total one, in body, as well as in spirit.
Judging from passages such as the Gospel for today, the Eucharist, along with the forgiveness of sin, seems to be one of the few sacramental rites as we celebrate them today, clearly, unmistakably celebrated by Christ himself, in just about the same way as do we.
St. Paul’s earliest concern was that the pure and authentic reception of the Eucharist not be marred by any other squabbles and disagreements among the early Christians. Eucharistic worship must be a bond of unity that goes beyond every barrier that human beings erect between themselves and others, barriers of politics, economics, race, even of religion. That means that to honestly take part in the Eucharist is to say, and try to mean, wish to mean, that there is simply no human being anywhere whom I can call my enemy.
If we are to truly follow Christ, we must see ourselves as called to offer our love, our service, our self-giving not only to those with whom our lives are immediately, experientially bound up. We must be ready to offer all of that as well to people who have no measurable claim on us at all, people with whom I am related in no measurable way.
That is true, but it is perhaps not true enough. Far beyond those who have done us no good, we are called to love, serve, care for those who have done us harm, and who in all likelihood will do so again given half a chance. It is those with whom we are also called to take the Eucharist.
So, God has chosen to live with the people. God has chosen to live with us as we are. We are not pure spirits. We are physical, material creatures (not to mention the aches and pains). Christ has chosen to make his presence with us physical, tangible, so that we might see ourselves called to do the same. Our community is truly Eucharistic when Christ’s presence is made truly physical, through our own…when the people who move through the sphere of our presence – here, now, today we experience Christ’s own radical tangible, physical love. The Eucharist, after all, is not only a gift given to us by God. It is a gift we must give to one another.