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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Eucharist: Are you being served? (Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ)

This week we trained a few new Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMs for short), and as part of that training I ask them to reflect on what brought them to the ministry. How did they experience the call to become an EM? Was it from a family member? Something they heard or saw at church? Some change in their church life (for instance, confirmation)?

There are as many answers as there are people, but generally they describe their experience as a “call” in some way, either organically, in a natural progression, say, from childhood service as an altar server to a new ministry as an EM, or as part of a larger shift in life, a desire to get more involved in church, a yearning to know more and participate more in faith life, a deeper experience of God.

“Call” is just the right word, because what Christ is doing through the Eucharist, and what God is doing through Christ and their Holy Spirit, is calling us to participate in saving the world. Christ is the face of God's loving desire, God's mission. As 2nd Corinthians put it in today's (Thursday's) first reading, it is
"…Christ, who is the image of God
For God…has shone in our hearts to bring to light
the knowledge of the glory of God
on the face of Jesus Christ."
Christ is the face, the "outward sign," or sacrament, of the invisible reality of God saving the world. What we do without God’s help is imitate one another in selfish desire for and consumption of whatever we think will make us happy. And that’s what we all want, and wanting the same things ultimately leads us to conflict and violence. We start seeing the world as “us” and “them,” “friend” and “enemy,” “insider” and “outsider.” Jesus, the human face and voice of God, baptized us into a different vision, a different faith, a different way of life. Jesus brings us into the family of God, where everyone is “in,” “friend,” in fact, family. Brother and sister. We begin to imitate Jesus, who imitates God, who loves everyone, who lets the rain fall and sun shine on good and bad alike, who is so wonderfully generous that God created us like God's self, a race in God's likeness, daughters and sons together in the garden.

Belonging is what we experience as members of the body of Christ, the Church. The Spirit of God makes us, many though we are, one. We have many different gifts, but they’re all given for the good of the whole body. We belong to Christ, and so we belong to one another. But in this community of the church, this belonging pushes us outward as our vision deepens, and we begin to see that we’re not really whole until everyone is in. So we receive the Spirit’s mission to do what Christ did: “as the Father sent me, so I send you” to preach the gospel, and help people understand that they have one Father, and they are all brothers and sisters. Belonging, in the community of the Church, leads to mission. As in the Trinity whom we celebrate as God, unity and diversity are one and the same thing. That is the image of God in which humanity is made.

Jesus himself “did not deem equality with God something to be grasped.” Instead, he became like us. He left, in a sense, the “belonging” of the Trinity, and went on God’s mission. “I did not come to be served,” Jesus said, “but to serve.” It’s a different kind of God we have. The more like God we become, the more we are drawn to serve one another, both in the church and its liturgy, and outside the church in the rest of our lives of family, school, work, politics, and economy.

We call our worship event a “service.” But whether or not we are liturgical ministers, and I hope everyone considers this according to their gifts, we are all called to serve one another in our lives, and serve the mission of God made visible by Christ. Life is a banquet that God serves to everyone. If we’re doing it right, while we’re being served, we’re also learning to be waiters. That’s what ministry is: being a waiter, a server, at the banquet of the Lamb, the Lamb of God who came not to be served, but to serve.