In the course of Jesus’ preaching and in his teaching, there are so many aspects of living and loving and forgiving and praying that he brings before his followers. If you want to be my disciple, then these must be among the hallmarks of your life
You must by people of love and mercy; you must understand what forgiveness means for you; you must do all you can to try to ensure that your life is free of prejudice and intolerance and bigotry. You must be generous to those who need your help; you must have a special consideration for the poor.
We could very easily continue this list of prescriptions, these demands of Christian living.
The global response of Christians in relation to these commands, down through the years and the centuries, has all too often been lacking. Sometimes this is displayed in a way of life that so easily exempts itself from really trying, or worse still, by placing a false façade on an inner life that ends up avoiding the challenge and call of the gospel in a serious way.
It is surely good, then, in spite of individual and communitarian weaknesses, to at least be able to recognise that the Church has remained faithful continually to the Lord’s invitation and command:- Do this in memory of me.
We have a constant pattern of two thousand of the coming together of the Body of Christ to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist. That pattern of life and worship is deserving of our reflection and our thanksgiving. We don’t do it perfectly and never will; the weakness and sinfulness of the human aspect of the Body of Christ still clings to us even in offering this most Holy mystery. However, it is still one of the most precious achievements of the life of the Church to continually celebrate Eucharist and to receive this vital nourishment for the Body of Christ every time we do so.
The truth of the above we can readily and happily acknowledge. However, since this is so, it surely means that our present inability to gather physically together over these last thirteen weeks affects us so deeply. The Sunday assembly is something which is so deeply embedded in the spiritual psyche of the Body of Christ; something vital to the very existence of the Church.
Therefore it means that we can come to a greater and deeper appreciation of the Eucharist even as we miss it and are unable to give our “Amen” to the body and blood of Christ.
It would seem that we may be coming close to the reopening of our Churches and eventually to the possibility of celebrating Sunday Mass together. However, in the immediate time ahead, this experience we know will be very different. The limit of our gathering will mean that every Mass will, of necessity, have a lot less people present. The liturgy itself will be reduced both in terms of prayer and scripture. Even our singing will disappear, albeit temporarily. Ironically, at the same time, of course, we will require an active involvement and support by many volunteers so that we can safely begin to gather together for the Eucharist The longing that things could be as they were before has begun to give way to yet another of our current expressions “the new normal”. We may not actually care for the concrete specific differences which will make for this new normal, but they will give us hope that we can continue to move to the ritual pattern of worship which was ours immediately prior to this time of emergency and pandemic.
“Do this in memory of me”. The Church has responded to those words in all times and situations. They have been heard by a Church in time of persecution; they have been fulfilled by the Church in situations of war and conflict. They are being heard today in the Church in another crisis time and they will be lived by the Body of Christ, nourished by and faithful to Her Lord until the end of time.
14th June 2020.