In the Byzantine Liturgy the distribution of Holy Communion begins with the priest saying: "Holy Things for holy people." It is a shame that this phrase is omitted from the Latin rite because it touches the heart of what coming together to celebrate the Eucharist really means.
We gather around our family tables not merely to eat and drink, but to be healed of anger, to be refreshed in our weariness, and to strengthen the bond of love and concern that makes us a family. So, too, Jesus invites us to gather around the table of the altar to give and receive reconciliation and forgiveness, to be filled with new vigor when we have grown tired in our struggle to be witnesses to the Gospel, and to reinforce the oneness in faith and love that makes us a "holy communion", a group of holy people bound together as His faithful followers.
The Eucharist is more than just a liturgical ritual in which we participate. It is not an excuse for us to be lazy or irresponsible; it does not allow us to be indifferent to suffering and injustice. It challenges us and forces us be involved with the pain of the world, but not absorbed or overwhelmed by it... because our hope is always rooted in the goodness and faithfulness of God.
For centuries the Eucharist was made more and more remote - locked in the Tabernacle, barricaded behind altar railings, and forbidden to so many of the faithful because of legal impediments. Rigid laws of fasting kept many from receiving; consciences over laden with guilt kept good people away from the Eucharist when they were most in need of its healing and comfort.
All the words of Jesus concerning the Eucharist speak a different language. He offers His Body as the Bread of Life; He says strongly: "If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." And He clearly intended that this great Gift should be seen as source of reconciliation and unity in His Church.
This is not a new attitude; it reflects the urgent invitation of Jesus Himself to all of us - not only to RECEIVE His Body and Blood, but also to BECOME His Body and Blood for others.
Today many of us face the real possibility of not being able to celebrate the Eucharist as often as we are accustomed. For some, this has already become a reality. It is so easy for us to take the Eucharist for granted; we let our participation at Mass become old, routine, and boring. We think of God the same way, we pray the same way; we hang on to the same petty gripes and grudges. We keep the same old friends and the same old enemies. Yet we are still "holy people."
And this is the challenge of the Eucharist. For unless we are willing to gather with all who make up this "holy people" - saints and sinners, rich and poor, traditional or progressive, "accepters," believers, seekers, doubters, dissenters - all seeking to discover God's will for each of them - then what we eat and drink becomes a judgment against ourselves.
Diversity should not be an obstacle or a threat to us. We should realize how the church of Christ is enriched by the great variety of ideas and thoughts - and dreams - that are brought together as we come to celebrate and to be nourished in the Eucharist.
The feast of Corpus Christi is a witness to this. Our oneness in faith and love is the strongest evidence that Jesus and His spirit are in fact working among us to bring all people together in the peace and justice of God's kingdom. It is the testament of a shared "communion" in which we are all aware of our commitment to become a "holy people' - to "be" the body and blood of Christ in all we do.