The usual semicontinuous reading of Mark’s gospel during Ordinary Time in Year B is always put on hold at this point of the year while we listen to chapter 6 from John. John chooses not to repeat the recount of the Last Supper that we see in the other gospels. Instead, John the chapter 6 reflection on the Eucharist that begins with the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.
The connection of this event with Jesus’ teaching that he is the bread of life reminds us that the Eucharist is a meal. Like the miraculous feedings of the gospels, the Eucharist is for us food and drink given to us by God. It is both thanksgiving and nourishment for those who follow Christ. It shows us that there is no limit to God’s giving – we will all receive what we need, with plenty to spare.
Jesus also explains to the people, however, that the manna their ancestors ate, however, did not give eternal life. Eternal life is the gift offered to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. Sharing in the Eucharist, therefore, is also to share in the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus ends the sacrifices of the Old Testament by offering the one new and eternal sacrifice of his own body and blood.
The design of our new altar seeks to reflect both the twofold nature of our Eucharistic celebration. The shape makes it recognisable as a table; a table which the entire community of the baptised are called to gather around to feast at the meal that leads us to the heavenly banquet. Its stone fabrication alludes to the sacrificial altars of the past, and communicates to us that the altar represents Christ himself, who sacrificed his own life for the redemption of all humankind.
The intention is that this sending forth of ministers will now form a part of the blessing and dismissal rites at the end of Mass. We are all sent forth at the end of Mass to be the Body of Christ to our brothers and sisters and we, as a community, send forth those ministers to go out into the world to serve in a particular way.
It is important that those taking Communion to the sick participate in this rite, and be entrusted with the Eucharist at the end of the Mass, rather than coming to request Communion from the tabernacle afterwards. There may be rare occasions where this is unavoidable. The practice of being sent forth from the Mass, however, is to be the norm in our parish.
The practice of calling the ministers forward to receive Communion for the sick is not about drawing attention to those ministers. Rather, it is about drawing our attention to those who they will visit. We all have a responsibility to keep the sick and housebound of our parish in our thoughts and prayers. We should take the time to enquire occasionally about their ongoing health and offer support and assistance. Finally, we have a duty to ensure that we support those who care for the sick, and keep them in our thoughts and prayers as well.
An important aspect of our pastoral care of each other is prayer for and outreach to our fellow parishioners who are unwell.
It is heartening to see that many parishioners are certainly mindful of others who are unwell and assiduous in commending them to our prayers. A number of parishioners also take Holy Communion to those who are unwell. At times, spouses or other family members perform this service for each other. In other cases, a parishioner functions as a “Special Minister of the Eucharist” and takes Holy Communion to the sick who request it. Please be aware that either means of taking the Eucharist to the sick is appropriate and encouraged. If you would like to know more about providing the Eucharist to a sick family member or fellow parishioner, please speak about it to one of the Priests in the first instance.
It is most desirable that those who take the Eucharist to the sick are seen to do so as an extension of the community’s celebration of the Eucharist and are commissioned by the worshipping community, through the Priest, at the end of Mass. This is why we have a special commissioning of Ministers of the Eucharist to the Sick at the end of Mass. To emphasise the link between the worshipping community’s celebration of the Eucharist and the taking of the Eucharist to the sick after Mass, we will be slightly repositioning when this commissioning takes place. Beginning from the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (the special feast in honour of the Eucharist) on the weekend of 21 & 22 June, Special Ministers of the Eucharist to the Sick will be commissioned after the Notices and the Prayer after Communion (rather than before, as is currently the case) – and immediately before the Final Blessing and Dismissal. These Ministers will be invited to process from the Church with the Priest and servers, as a way of symbolising that they are taking Holy Communion to the Sick as an extension of the community’s celebration of the Eucharist.
We believe that God speaks to us, his people, particularly in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass. The scriptures provide a rich treasury of God’s continuing dialogue with us. Not only did God speak to those people, at the time that the original texts were spoken or written, but God speaks to us still now. The messages that the scriptures contain still bear meaning and relevance for us today.
Dialogue requires not just speaking, but listening as well. We are called to listen during the celebration of the Eucharist, particularly when God speaks to us in the proclamation of the scriptures.
There is a difference between hearing and listening. We may hear someone speaking to us, but are we attentive to what is being said? Dictionary definitions of listen often refer to paying attention, to making some kind of effort when hearing something. True listening is an active rather than passive activity.
St Benedict encouraged people to “listen and attend with the ear of your heart”. This is a wonderful explanation of how we are called to listen in liturgical celebrations. It reminds us that the word of God doesn’t exist simply to teach us, but to transform us. Listening draws us into a deeper relationship with God, as reflected in Blessed John Henry (Cardinal) Newman’s motto, “Heart speaks to heart”.