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 we do. The story of the multiplication of the loaves was, from the beginning, used as a symbol of the Eucharist, and it is the only miracle story recorded in all four of the Gospel authors.
St. Paul’s earliest concern, seen in the first of his writings, was that the pure and authentic reception of the Eucharist not be marred by any other symbols and disagreements among the early Churches. Some of Paul’s strongest, harshest language was reserved for those whom he saw as trivialising, fractionalising, the celebration of the Eucharist. For him, this was a sacrament, a ceremony that must transcend every other consideration.
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.
I doubt that it is easy for us to appreciate just how truly radical a thing an authentic Eucharistic morality really is. Any number of gospel stories clearly radicalise the notion of love of neighbour. Most notably is the story of the Good Samaritan. From such, it is clear that if we are to 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 who have done us no service, brought no good into our lives, people with whom we are related in no measurable way.
Our sense of neighbour must go beyond even that if we are to approach the Eucharist as Christ offers it. 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 likelihood will do so again given half a chance. It is those with whom we are called to take the Eucharist.
Today, we celebrate the food that we worship, a God who has chosen to live with his people. And more than that, he has chosen to live with us are we are. We are not pure spirits, we are physical, material creatures. 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, 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.