By Richard Rohr
The following is an adapted extract taken from a talk given by Richard Rohr in 2000.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from Heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
The mystery of Eucharist clarifies and delineates Christianity from the other religions of the world. We have many things in common, but Christianity is the only religion that says that God became a human body; God became flesh, as John’s Gospel puts it, (1:14). Our fancy theological word for that is the Incarnation, the enfleshment. It seems that it is much easier for God to convince bread of what it is than for God to convince us. Incarnation is scandalous, shocking — cannibalistic, intimate, sexual!
He did not say, “Think about this,” “Fight about this,” “Stare at this;” but He said “Eat this!”
A dynamic, interactive event that makes one out of two.
If we did not have the Eucharist, we would have to create it; sometimes it seems that outsiders can appreciate it more than Christians.
As Gandhi said, “There are so many hungry people in the world that God could only come into the world in the form of food.”
It is marvellous, that God would enter our lives not just in the form of sermons or Bibles, but in food.
God comes to feed us more than just teach us. Lovers understand that.”
When we start making the Eucharistic meal something to define membership instead of to proclaim grace and gift, we always get in trouble; that’s been the temptation of every denomination that has the Eucharist.
Too often we use Eucharist to separate who’s in from who’s out, who’s worthy from who’s unworthy, instead of to declare that all of us are radically unworthy, and that worthiness is not even the issue. If worthiness is the issue, who can stand before God?
Are those who receive actually saying they are “worthy”? I hope not. It is an ego statement to begin with.
The issue is not worthiness; the issue is trust and surrender or, as Thérèse of Lisieux said, “It all comes down to confidence and gratitude.”
I think that explains the joyous character with which we so often celebrate the Eucharist. We are pulled into immense gratitude and joy for such constant and unearned grace.
It doesn’t get any better than this! All we can do at Eucharist is kneel in gratitude and then stand in confidence. (Actually, St. Augustine said that the proper Christian posture for prayer was standing, because we no longer had to grovel before such a God or fear any God that is like Jesus.)
Christ is the bread, awaiting hunger.
Eucharist is presence encountering presence — mutuality, vulnerability. There is nothing to prove, to protect, or to sell. It feels so empty, naked, and harmless, that all you can do is be present.
The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger.
Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside of us for another presence.
If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for “another.”
Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger. And most often sinners are much more hungry than the “saints.”