Monday, September 13, 2010

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, bishop and doctor of the Church

(I Corinthians 11:17-26.33; Luke 7:1-10)

Last year in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development annual collection some people showed their disgust with the organization by placing messages of protest in the collection basket at Mass. Whether or not their protest is legitimate, we can ask if it is appropriate to publicly show division among the faithful at the Eucharist. Is it not expressing factions in a similarly offensive way that St. Paul criticizes in his First Letter to the Corinthians?

As theologians will remind us, the Eucharist is the primordial sacrament of reconciliation. Because the Lord becomes physically present in the elements of bread and wine, we should approach it humbly. Following Jesus’ recommendations in the gospels, we first seek reconciliation with those whom we find offensive and then come to thank him for giving us peace. It is not the time to express indignation.

We owe thanks to God for that division in the Corinthian church. Because of it, Paul gives us the earliest extant reflection on the Eucharist. The text reassures us that our Mass is not an invention of the early Church to conjure the spirit of Jesus. No, it is a true memorial established by the Lord to make his life-giving body and his sin-forgiving blood present to us.