This weekend we hear a beloved passage, Paul’s hymn to love. The reading ends with “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” We may think of the quote as an example of how to live in relationship with those we love. But Paul wrote his letter to a spirited but divided community in Corinth to urge them to live in unity and love. At times we might feel like we are part of a modern day Corinth in our parishes. It’s not always easy to be in harmony and respond in a loving manner to other parishioners. But the community we call church is more than a group of people. We believe that we are united as the Body of Christ.
We need to be reminded of the goal to live and work together as one body. Like the Corinthians we can forget. The Mass gives us a reminder and also the opportunity to recommit to being a part of that body, when we receive Communion.
As we come forward to receive Communion we sing a communal song. The music symbolizes what is happening to us spiritually as we eat the sacred meal. Just as our voices are joined into one song, so we are being joined together in the Mystical Body of Christ. We process forward together, not one-by-one.
The minister of Communion says to us, “The body of Christ.” We answer “Amen,” receive the host and eat it. Our Amen means more than “I believe that this host is Christ.” Our Amen also says, “Yes, I wish to receive this body of Christ”; “Yes, I wish to become more closely united with Jesus Christ”; “Yes, I wish to become more closely joined to my brothers and sisters who share in this banquet here and throughout the Church”; “Yes, I wish to be the body of Christ.” So, the assent given in our “Amen” refers not only to this moment. We are fed not only so that we may be spiritually nourished.
When we receive Communion we are changed to become what we eat, the body and blood of Christ. We take the host and wine not only into our bodies but also into our lives. Our Amen says, “Yes, I wish to be the body and blood of Christ in the world — broken, poured out and shared so that people in my community may be nourished.” In Christ’s name we are called to bring his compassion, love, reconciliation, peace and goodness to those whom we meet in daily life. The great spiritual gifts we receive in Communion grace us to follow, as Paul says, “a more excellent way” to live the kind of love he shows us.
Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.