In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul teaches, “You are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it.” (12:27) A beautiful illustration of this is found in the true story of an old African chief of the Ngoni tribe. One Sunday morning he was sharing in Mass, watching members of the Ngoni, Senga, and Tumbuka tribes worshipping side by side and receiving the Eucharist. Suddenly, his mind flashed back to his boyhood, and he recalled watching Ngoni warriors, after a day’s fighting, washing Senga and Tumbuka blood from their spears and bodies. That morning at the Eucharist, the old chief understood as never before what Christianity is all about. It is God, calling all people in and through Christ to put away all hostility and live as one family. This is the message the Church proclaims to the world each time it gathers to celebrate the Eucharist. As St. Paul says elsewhere, “Because we share in the one loaf, we are all one body.” There is a very real sense in which receiving communion is not simply about Jesus and me. Yes, I am united to the Lord in the most complete way possible in this world. But Christ also wants us to be united with everyone else to whom He gives Himself. We are meant to live as one body and to be saved together. We are meant to be sources of grace for one another. Christ wants to use us to bring truth and love to one another. Each time we gather for Mass, may we understand this and strive to live it out each day.
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