We are, right now, in the kingdom of God; and Christ is in our midst, speaking to us, inviting us to partake of a great banquet, a great feast! So this is not a gathering of people who think the same way, who agree on everything, or have the same tastes and interests. And this is not an event like we are used to, where we need to be stimulated, and our emotions manipulated, and our needs satisfied. We are in God’s court. Our Father is presiding. The Holy Spirit is drawing us nearer and nearer to Our Lord so that we might draw nearer to Him and each other.
This is a great blessing—to be invited by God to be here; to be a member of His body; to be attached to our Head. This is a great blessing—to be welcomed, not because we demand it or deserve it, but despite our flaws and short-comings. This is a great blessing—to not be labeled or judged by anything except that we have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
And the greatness of this blessing sits on the altar. It’s a banquet, prepared by Christ, for which He paid dearly. It’s a feast where He gives back to us the flesh and blood He took from us so that He might transform us by His love and sacrifice.
This banquet doesn’t look like much because our eyes clouded over with the cataracts of materialism, which are informed by our physical desires. We seek physical delights—something that feeds our passions—the passions of gluttony, lust, envy, and pride. That’s what we want to see—a great spread, a feast for the stomach, something that pleases and whets our appetite.
When that is all we see, when that is all we want, then anything else can draw us away. Then we come to this altar only when it’s convenient; or to assuage some guilt; or to fulfill some duty. Otherwise, we’d rather be somewhere else. We’d rather be indulging our senses—because this doesn’t look like much.
And so the excuses pour in. “I cannot come to this banquet. Don’t bother me now. There are so many other things that demand my attention. Helping others, seeking justice, protecting my stuff, meeting my needs, making sure I don’t miss out—all of that is more important than standing here, with my brothers and sisters, standing before Christ, heeding His invitation to partake of His divine nature.”
What is offered here in this place is something no angel will ever taste. The food offered here, thousands before Christ’s death never received. But it’s given for us. It’s given to you. And for your good.
If you miss out on this, you miss out on eternal life. You can eat other food and live, for a time. But if you turn up your nose at this food; if you believe your feelings, your thoughts, your fears, your wishes are more important; if you think this food is yours to take whenever you’re good and ready, and when everyone and everything is as it should be—then you run the risk of pushing aside life Himself; and you jeopardize your soul. For here, surrounded by saints and angels and this family of ours, however disagreeable we may sometimes be—here Christ’s flesh and blood are served to you. And not just to you as individuals, but to all of us together. And He says clearly: ‘everyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’
Enjoy this blessing, then! Let nothing stand in the way. Not your fears. Not your disordered passions. Not your desire to control. Not your inability to see what’s really going on. Instead, in faith and love, draw near.
And while you approach, and when you receive this tremendous godsend, guard yourself. Guard your impulse to be overcome by anger or pride. Guard your tendency to give into your lustful desires. Guard your inclination to speak your mind. Rather, consider how ennobled you are; how much respect and dignity our Savior shows to you by letting you kneel here with others who are so different from yourself, and taste not just His kindness but also His very flesh and blood. And let that truth, Truth Himself, restrain every unruly stirring, and every presumptuous yet hurtful judgment that you feel entitled to speak.
For who has taken on every hurt, every abuse, every brutality, every crime? Isn’t it Our Lord Jesus in His Passion and Death? Let’s not add to them, then, by our hate-filled words or our violent and extreme accusations. Who has taken all hatred into Himself and transformed it into life-giving, life-restoring, life-renewing love? Isn’t that also Our Lord Jesus? Let’s believe that what He gives us here, can give us the courage to withstand every evil impulse, and the boldness to speak not my truth or your truth but Truth, which Our Lord truly is.
Take to heart that the power and grace which changes the bread and wine also converts and transfigures whoever receives this Holy and Blessed Sacrament with true faith. Believe, and hold fast, and trust, that what is really given is really here; and as you give thanks more and more for this astounding kindness and generosity—then you’ll know that Truth tells the truth when He says that you will live because of Him.
The only thing you should fear, then, is saying the horrid words spoken in today’s Gospel: “I cannot come. I will not come. I don’t wish to come.”
Instead, lift up your heart, and draw near, looking only at Our Lord and His Supper. “Believe me, this Sacrament drives away not only death but also all diseases. For when Christ abides in us, He calms our sinful urges; He strengthens piety; He extinguishes the passions; He heals our wounds; and He raises us up after every fall.” (St Cyril of Alexandria)
To this Lord Jesus Christ, whose flesh is food indeed and whose blood is drink indeed, together with His all-holy Father and His life-giving Spirit, belongs all glory, honor, and worship: now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.