Walking Our Faith: Of bread and wine and cookies and communion (column)
November 5, 2016
Each year before the Florida State High School Swimming championship, my father baked a batch of his famous chocolate chip cookies for me to share with my teammates. There was common agreement that these were the world's best chocolate chip cookies.
Forty years later, I am still hoping to replicate Dad's cookies and happily, never quite attaining his greatness. And though he passed away some twenty years ago, he is always close when I begin to bake.
Cooking allows me to express my love and desire for relationship. I like to imagine this is the same pleasure God feels as he provides for us, feeds us and reaches out to draw us closer.
In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to mark their doors with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, so that those homes would be "passed over" and their inhabitants saved (Exodus 12). Later, as the Israelites crossed the desert after their escape from Egypt, God provided manna that fell from Heaven.
In the New Testament, Jesus becomes the Paschal lamb. Through his sacrifice he took away the sins of the world.
At the Last Supper, he took bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body, which is given up for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
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After supper he took a cup of wine and said, "This cup is the new covenant between God and his people — an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you." (Luke 22:19-20)
This bread and wine is as essential to our well-being as the food that sustains and nourishes us each day.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the communion/Eucharist in this way: it is "a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'" (CCC1323)
This is so much more than I knew. How much more I have yet to experience in my relationship with Jesus through communion.
When my father baked chocolate chip cookies for me, I knew he did it as an expression of love. They were not going to make me swim any faster, but they encouraged me to do my best because I knew my father believed in me.
Similarly, I need to experience communion as an expression of Jesus' love for me. A love that grows in my awareness as I open my heart to his presence.
Yet, sometimes it feels as if communion is something we do at the end of a church service once a week, or month, or quarter. Just a memorial for something that happened two thousand years ago.
Going forward, I hope we will gather at the communion table as a family joining our living God in a feast that is always new.
We will deepen our relationship with Jesus as we eat the bread and drink the wine and invite him to become an active part of our lives. It is in this communion with Jesus that we share in a "sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity."
Let us join the Paschal feast prepared by our heavenly father as often as possible. God has prepared a place at the table for each of us because he desires this closer relationship.
In my own walk of faith, the centrality of communion brought me into the Catholic Church. But until this week, I have been unable to adequately express why it mattered so much. Now I understand: Communion is our key to a dynamic, ever-changing relationship we build with Jesus every day, through the Eucharist.
Thanksgiving to Go in Summit County
This year, local churches will provide free Thanksgiving groceries to Summit County families so they can enjoy their own Thanksgiving dinner. You can get involved now by shopping for a short list of nonperishable Thanksgiving food items, or you can make a $20 donation which will go with each bag to pay for the turkey.
If you would like to provide a hearty Thanksgiving meal for a Summit County family, or if you would like to receive a free Thanksgiving to-go bag filled with groceries, send an email to Terese Keil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Week Seven of Nine of Reading the Psalms
This week's Psalm excerpt expresses our desire for a deeper relationship with God. A relationship that is alive and growing in its depth.
Psalm 25 (v. 4-7)
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
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