I have celebrated another beautiful wedding this weekend in the parish. It adds to the numerous occassions of sacramental celebrations in the parish. This year alone, not only marriages, or the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the parish has also witnessed the celebration of Baptisms, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and of course, Funerals. These have been special moments of grace for families and our parish community. In such occassions the family of God’s people gather together to express their joys and happiness of the moment; and in challenging times and loss, to give and receive support from one another.
Sacraments, as signs leading us to deeper meaning in life are deep rooted in families and actual life experiences. All the seven sacraments of the Church are lived out daily in families: Baptism reminds us when a child is born into the family; Eucharist – the family meal; Confirmation – no child is expected to be a baby forever, they grow up and become adult and independent; Marriage is the heartbeat of family life; Penance/Reconciliation – we do step on each other’s toes in the family and we say SORRY; Sacrament of the sick – any of us can get sick and disabled people come from families – we have the duty of care for the weak and feeble in the family. Last but not the least is the Holy Orders – never forget that the priests and those set aside for the special ministry come from families and are sent back to minister to families.
How fortunate are those who receive these sacraments. How happy and blessed are those who are called to partake of the sacramental life of the Church; those for whom the Psalmist invites to “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord”. That same psalm beautifully rendered by the Clifton diocese choir on my priestly ordination.
Indeed, I can testify to the Lord’s goodness. I have realised that though we hardly ever think about it, the priests and ministers of the scraments are not only the dispensers of the great sacramental grace, but most importantly, they are equally recipients and partakers of the same sacrament they celebrate with the rest of the faithful. What a privilege for me to offer the sacrifice of Mass for the living and the dead; But I am more blessed for the privilege to receive any of the sacraments, like any member of the Church. I recount the words of St Augustine to the people of God, “For you I am a priest, but with you I am a Christian.” In this case, we can actually say, more blessed is the one that receives than the one that dispenses. This is the irony of the sacrifice of the Cross and the Eucharist. How important for the people of God gathered around the altar to observe that the priest takes time during the mass to receive the Eucharist very reverently, before rushing into giving communion to others. How important it is for the priest to lead the congregation in some moments of silent reflection after communion before the post communion prayer.
Elijah’s experience today couldn’t speak more about the great privilege we have in the reception of the sacrament, especially, the Eucharist. It came at the time when he felt he had had enough. God sent his messenger, that angel who ministers even to the ministers. He was given food to eat, and after the second meal, he was commanded to get on with his work. This is the support and encouragement we need when we think we can no longer continue in our good works; especially, in our journey in faith as pilgrims. God gives us the food of angels – Panis Angelicus, to sustain us on our journies. Christian journey is a ‘way of love’; the road to love is a very long way, stretching beyond our imagination. It could be challenging and frustrating but its reward is incredible.
Like Elijah who was frustrated to the extent of giving up, Jesus faces the same frustration and challenge before his opponents. His adversaries dont understand why he says he would give his own flesh and blood. It is not actually easy to understand, let’s be realistic; but it is possible in what it signifies – love beyond telling; sacrifice and kindness to total strangers; forgiveness to those who hate us and hurt us; Grieving not the Holy Spirit but being at peace with oursleves and with each other; Good will to those who do not wish us well. This is what the sacrifice of the Cross represents for us, made present and constantly re-enacted in the Eucharist.
We remember in Euccharist communion, those who are not physically and spiritually able to receive it; those whose circumstances have cut them off from the support of the Church; those who are not in Communion with the Church; the sick and housebounds for whom the hunger and thirst for the Eucharist means so much.