More on Eucharistic Sharing


My column a couple of weeks ago about intercommunion, has, as I anticipated, resulted in reaction of two opposite kinds. One school says that Jesus would not turn anybody away, so what right do we have to do so.
The other school of thought was expressed strongly in a letter sent to me claiming that ‘ecumenism is rubbish’ and that ‘catholic ecumenists are idiotic dreamers’. I would like to respond to the first point of view.
If the Eucharist were simply a memorial meal, then of course it would be inhospitable to refuse to anyone. But, for Roman Catholics, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. At Mass we join Christ in the timeless offering of his body and blood for us on the cross. We enter the eternal sacrifice of Christ that not only brought redemption to the world at Passover around 2 000 years ago, but continues to this very moment.
The Eucharist is also a meal, but not the same sort of meal as the feeding of the 5 000. Scripture tells us that at the last supper Jesus was with ‘his disciples’, not with the crowds who usually followed him. Contrary to our insistence that Jesus welcomed everybody, only those closest to him were invited to be present on this occasion.
In the words of institution in the Eucharistic Prayer, we hear the words: “This is my body which will be given up for you. Do this in memory of me.” ‘Doing this’ means giving ourselves for the sake of others. In communion we pledge our willingness to be broken and poured out like Christ for the sake of the world.
Receiving communion is not about who is invited or who is worthy, but about who is willing to be broken as Jesus was and to drink of the same cup from which, in his agony, he asked to be spared.
In response to the minister’s “Body/ blood of Christ” we say “Amen”. Our “Amen” has a twofold meaning. Firstly, we are affirming our belief in the real presence of Christ in the consecrated elements. Secondly, we are acknowledging that we too have been changed into the Body of Christ.
In the words of Augustine: “If you then are the body and members of Christ, your mystery is laid on the table of the Lord. Be a member of the body of Christ, that the Amen may be true. Be what you see, and receive what you are”.
In receiving communion, we proclaim our membership of the Body of Christ - the Church – and give out assent to its values, beliefs and traditions. What then are we really asking of people who are not Catholic when we claim the right to communion for them? In our quest to be inclusive, have we become too casual about the demands that the Eucharist places on us?
Of course we do not check the credentials every person who presents for communion, as one person claimed I was suggesting. But nor should we gloss over the sacrifice that is required of us when we share communion at the table of the Lord.


Elizabeth Harrington