We read in the book of Exodus how Moses took the blood from sacrificed young bulls and splashed it on the altar, the altar representing God. Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people. The people professed, "All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do." This act symbolized the covenant, the bond between God and the chosen people. (cf. Exodus 24:6-8)
What happened to these people? Over the years many were unfaithful, followed other gods, lost sight of the vision, and behaved immorally. One problem was that the people didn't understand how deeply God was committed to them. A second problem was that the people didn't have an effective way of renewing their part of the covenant.
In order to remedy the situation God decided to do what only God could do. He did not send a new sacrificial animal, or even a whole flock of animals. Instead God sent his only Son, whose body was broken and whose blood was poured out for us. Now all would realize how profound God's commitment to us is. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the Father's proclamation of the new covenant.
For our part we are not sprinkled with animal blood. Instead we are given the Body of Christ to eat and the Blood of Christ to drink. This is how we regularly renew our part of the covenant. This is how we commune, enter into union, and are intimately joined with our God.
In chapter three of John's gospel we read, "God so loved the world that he sent his only Son." God so loved the world, that is, all of us, that he sent his Son. So when I hold up the host and say, "The Body of Christ," I could use other words. I could say, "This is the love of God," because God so loves us that he gives us his Son.
When I or the Minister of the Eucharist says, "The Body of Christ," you respond, "Amen." "Yes." What a powerful word! First of all, it means "Amen, Yes, I understand and believe this is the Body of Christ." God wants the "yes" that comes from our minds.
Our "Amen," also means "Yes, I choose to receive you, Lord. Enter in to my life more completely. I choose to do your will." God want the "yes" that comes from our wills.
Our minds, our wills. There is one more "Yes." Remember the apostle Peter? He didn't do so well along the way of the cross. He denied Jesus three times. But he was sorry. And after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and he asked him a question. He asked, "Peter do you love me?" What does Peter say, "Yes Lord, I love you." Jesus asked him again, "Peter do you love me?" Again Peter replied, "Yes Lord, you bet I love you." A third time Jesus asks him, "Peter do you love me?" I can see Peter shouting it out this time, "Yes, Lord, with all my heart." Peter was totally committed to Jesus.
That's what our "Amen" means when we receive Holy Communion. "Amen, Yes, Lord, I love you. Yes, Lord, you bet I love you. Yes Lord, I love you with all my heart."
By our "Amen" we render to God what belongs to God, that is, our minds, our wills and our hearts.
One more thing. After Peter proclaimed his love for Jesus, Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep." He gave Peter a job to do, a mission, -- to feed the people with truth, with forgiveness, with love. Jesus wanted actions.
At the end of Mass I say to you, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." Through me God is telling you, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep." God wants our actions.
The gospels record how at the Last Supper Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it as food to those who needed to be nourished. That bread was and is his body. We are members of his body. So we can say that at Mass Jesus takes us, blesses us, breaks us, and gives us as food to those who need to be nourished.
-- He breaks our prejudices so that there are no barriers between us.
-- He breaks our selfishness so that we become self-giving.
-- He breaks our unforgiveness so that we become reconcilers.
-- He breaks our fears so that we are free to love.
It is all part of that lifelong process of dying to self that others may live. As broken bread we can go into action to feed those we meet.
During the week how will other people know that we have participated in Mass on Sunday? In the Acts of the Apostles we read, "When the people saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13) During the week, when people see our hospitality, our compassion, our courage, and our passion for justice, when they see us in action, they will recognize that we too had been with Jesus here at Mass.
Nothing can stop those who have said "Amen!" "Yes!" to God. His love will be within us, and that love will nourish our weary world.