I went to Mass at my area cathedral today. In what is increasingly a rarity, especially for the weekday Mass, the Archbishop was present as chief celebrant and homilist. He was assisted by one of the priest regulars who often celebrate weekday and Sunday masses.
Communion time sent me into deeper reflection than the usual prayers and meditation at this part of the Mass. It is not uncommon to find that when there is a female eucharistic minister distributing communion, alongside a man, the “male line” is always way longer. Even when the woman communion distributor has come to the end of her queue, she is often left standing with a look on her face that suggests a plea to communicants to come over, while the communicants remain resolute in displaying their skills at not noticing that she is waiting to be useful.
I often get up to receive communion with a “Holy Mother Church allows it, therefore I am game” shrug when somethings do not appear to be in line with my “preference.” From now on I resolve to make this a silent burst of joy, as in “Yippee, there’s Jesus; here I come.” I am sometimes guilty of the behaviour of queue avoidance, even though more often than not, I try to take the communion line that is closet or most conveniently located to where I am seated.
The shunning of certain ministers of the Eucharist does not just show up when there is a male/female choice. It is also apparent that people prefer to go the the priest’s queue when there is a permanent deacon or male Eucharistic Minister serving alongside him. This morning, the distinction between who has the “better” Eucharist took on a new twist that, for some reason, truly saddened me. This dear parish priest has a reputation for dedication and holiness. He is sound in all aspects. But there he was, towards the end of communion, standing with a host in hand hovering over the ciborium, looking imploringly at the line of a few going to the archbishop, as if to say, “hey, we could get this over with a lot more quickly if some of you just switched lanes.” Nobody budged from the Archbishop’s line.
I guess when you have your mind set on the notion that you will receive the “better” Body of Christ, it is kind of like an anti-climax if the “second rate” queue runs out of people and you feel forced to switch because of some unwritten protocol. Does this imply that some of us have embedded in our minds the notion of a hierarchy of Hosts; that the hand from which communion is received is more a determinant of the Holy Eucharist being the Body of Christ, than what it inherently is? Would a fan approach their favourite celebrity and feel the authograph is authentic only if a certain brand of pen is used, or depending on who chauffered the star?
Maybe that tinge of sadness I felt this morning was remorse for my past behaviour which suggested just that. Then again, perhaps it was because today’s gospel. Don’t know if the Archbishop got it mixed up by reading Matthew 14: 22-36, but it hammered home the point about lack of faith. You know, the story where Peter tried to walk on the water to meet Jesus and as soon as he got that sinking feeling cried out in fright, “Lord, save me.” And Jesus said, “Oh you of little faith.”