On my first day of freshman orientation at Notre Dame, the opening meeting ended with a mass. My three roommates and I walked up to receive communion together. As I later learned, two of us were practicing Roman Catholics, one was from a Roman Catholic family but going through a “rebellious phase,” and the fourth was a Buddhist whose parents had been born in China. He didn’t know thing one about Roman Catholicism, let alone the Eucharist, but in my naivete I assumed we were all Catholic and didn’t question anything when he stepped up to take communion with us. Afterward he asked: “So what was that bread thing all about?” Slightly scandalized, I gave him a brief outline of the Lord’s Supper and advised him that in the future, he should probably decline partaking. He shrugged and said: “I was hungry. It was bread.”
Flash forward about 10 years. I’m visiting my ailing grandmother in the nursing home. She asks if I would take her down the hall to mass. I happily do so because it is important to her. Always has been. However, since that freshman orientation I have fallen away from the church and haven’t taken communion in years. My grandmother is in a wheelchair and I’m behind her for the whole service, so I assume she doesn’t see me when I silently shake my head and decline to receive the host. That’s the second assumption in this story that ends awkwardly. Later I learn she tells my aunt she is worried about me because I didn’t take communion. When I learned this my heart broke.
These two events are the parentheses around my evolving relationship with communion. Thanks to me, my Chinese roommate’s first exposure to the body of Christ was: you shouldn’t have. At that point in my life I would have said it wasn’t a “no” but a “not until you’re ready.” But what is more Christ-like than feeding the hungry? A decade later I felt the same sting of exclusion. It was bread. I didn’t realize how sad and hungry my soul was until after I didn’t take it.
You are hungry for the Bread of Life. Someone may tell you “wait.” That someone isn’t Christ. You may tell yourself you’re not worthy. That’s not Christ’s voice either. Christ’s voice is saying: “Take and eat. This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, poured out for the sins of the world.” The world. Know who’s part of the world? You are. It took me almost another 20 years to understand that. Don’t wait.
Often when I take or serve communion, I think of my grandmother or my roommate. I hope she sees me joining her at the table. Unlikely as it is, I hope some day I will get to invite him. I will say: “The table is Christ’s table. It is for the world. It is for you. Eat your fill with me.”
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.