The Responsorial (Psalm 54) gives the ultimate grounds for hope: “God himself is my help.”
We may forget that one of the major truths Communion expresses is our reconciliation with God. Paul says in Colossians 1:21-23: “Christ has achieved reconciliation for you in his mortal body by dying...” It is in that same body, in which he expressed his love for us on the cross, that Jesus gives himself to us in Communion.
There is a principle at work here: Jesus expressed and expresses his love for us in the flesh, in and through his body, both on the cross and in Communion.
This is the value of a sacrament: it is a physical, visible act that helps us “hold fast in faith” and be “unshaken in the hope promised by the Gospel” when divine things seem unreal. Jesus doesn’t just tell us he loves us: he uses his body to express it. And we value that.
Think about it. As human beings, we are body and soul. There are very few things we believe people find important if they don’t give physical expression to their attitude. There is a difference between “thinking about” someone and making a phone call or paying a visit. And there is all the difference in the world between only worshiping God “in spirit and truth” and putting our body physically in the pew. When Jesus used those words to the Samaritan woman, he was not canceling out assembling for worship in time and space (John 4:19-24). As Jesus said, “God is spirit.” But in Jesus he took flesh. That is the key to Christianity.
He was speaking in terms of “both-and,” not “either-or.” When we stop visiting friends, attending weddings and funerals, and expressing love physically to a spouse, we can think about worshiping God in our heads instead of going to Mass. (If you are too old or sick for any of the above, you don’t need convincing; you are only too painfully aware of the difference!) Until then, the “sacramental principle” works both ways: God expresses himself physically to us and we to him.
In the last recorded conversation that Jesus had with Peter, he gave Peter a chance to make up for his triple denial of him before his crucifixion. He asked him three times, “Do you love me?” And each time that Peter said “Yes,” Jesus told him what he would accept as a proof of his love: “Feed my sheep.” This is the first rule of pastoral ministry. Luke 6:1-5 is a preview of it (2John 21:15-17. See also 13:38; 18:17, 25-27).
Jesus’ disciples are eating grain on the Sabbath in a way the Pharisees say is against the Law. Jesus reminds them that David himself “entered God’s house and ate the holy bread and gave it to his men, although only priests are allowed to eat it.” He concludes, “The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” This makes clear that we must obey God’s laws according to God’s mind and heart. Jesus is Lord of liturgy as well. Behind every Church law and liturgical instruction his voice is saying, “Feed my sheep.” Obedience that does not nourish is betrayal.
Initiative: Live by God’s law of love. Give priority to feeding his sheep.