June 18, 2017

Friends,

This weekend is the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (formerly referred to as “Corpus Christi”). I have the utmost respect for the Eucharist and believe as Pope Francis says that “it is not a reward for being good, it is food for the journey.” Coming to the table and knowing you are welcome to receive the body and blood of Christ is truly a privilege and makes us aware that it is all about the community in which we celebrate.

As we know, the Eucharist goes back to the Last Supper when Jesus gathered with his followers. Over the past 2,000 years our understanding of the Eucharist has undergone many changes. For the first half of our history (1,000 years) those who gathered to celebrate their faith received the body of Christ in their hands and drank from the cup. But as happens, Church leaders realized that some of those coming to communion, instead of consuming the body of Christ, were taking it home and putting up shrines to worship it. This is not what Christ intended and so the institutional Church, to counteract this abuse, forbid anyone from receiving the Eucharist in their hands, and took away the cup. So we grew up believing that only the priest was “worthy” to touch the body of Christ and drink the blood of Christ. This is not what Christ intended, it was a reaction to an abuse. So, for the next 1,000 years, Catholics could only receive the Eucharist on their tongues and were not allowed to drink form the cup. This is also when we were told that we had to kneel to receive communion, and altar rails were put up to separate the “worthy” priest from the “unworthy” congregation. This is not what Christ intended. During this time the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) was deeply identified with communion, and many Catholics stopped coming to the Eucharist because they believed that they were not worthy due to their having committed “mortal sin” and had not gone to confession the previous Saturday. This is not what Christ intended.

When Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council (1962 –1965) he challenged the bishops of the world to review the history of our Church and look at the Catholic teachings in light of the gospels and the early years of Christianity. One of the areas of concern was the history of the Eucharist, and the Council determined that we needed to re-educate Catholic people about the importance of the Eucharist in our lives. As you know, since the Council we are encouraged to receive the Eucharist in our hands and to drink from the cup.

This is what Christ intended.

Enjoy Life!
Fr. Ron Coyne

 

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