Unity or Division

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today's passage from the First Letter to the Corinthians is one of those Scriptures with which most of us are familiar. Inasmuch as all of St. Paul's letters predate the Gospels, we can say with some authority that this is the first written account of what took place at the so-called Last Supper. Using the very words that Jesus used, St. Paul recounts how he changed forever the way that we will look at unleavened bread and wine.

This passage is so important to us for this reason that we can be forgiven if we forget the reason that St. Paul includes it at this point in the letter. Sadly, the sacrament which was instituted by Christ to ensure that both he and his disciples would always be capable of intimate union had become a source of division within the Corinthian community, specifically between the rich and the working class people of the community. Those who were not burdened with the necessity of work were able to gather at the designated place for the celebration of the Lord's Supper before those who had to work. They were forced by their employment to come later. Rather than wait for the entire community, the wealthy members went ahead with the sacrificial meal. When the working people came later, the wealthier members had already finished. Thus that which was instituted for the sake of unity had become a source of division. Although the specific verses which St. Paul used are deleted from this reading, he makes the point that those who act in such a manner are eating condemnation unto themselves.

We refer to the reception of the Eucharist as "communion." The word means "with unity"; in Latin, "cum unitas." Sadly there have been many episodes in the history of the Church that have contradicted this notion. Whenever the Eucharist divides rather than unites, we know that something is not right.

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