The basis of Christian community as the legacy of Jesus is inclusion and acceptance. During his lifetime this was evident in his practice of meal fellowship. Jesus was well known and also criticized for his inclusive meals. Whether it was the feeding of 5000 or a normal dinner everyone was welcome. There were no requirements for participation. His critics asked, “ Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus’ inclusiveness and care for others were symbolized by these shared meals. They were the sign of the reign of God which, unlike the stratified cultural norms of the day, included all and cherished everyone without exception. The gospel narrative tells us that prior to his death he asked his followers to continue this practice in his memory. We are also told that they did do this and that they encountered him in “the breaking of the bread”. In the early Christian community this practice emphasized the unity of lives centered in the love and compassion of Jesus.
Do this in memory of me.
Reflect on the inclusive love of Jesus. Consider the witness of these meals in the culture of his day. Reflect on his words which always chose persons over practices, and forgiveness over condemnation. Reflect on what you see and hear witnessed in Christian circles presently. To quote a phrase: What would Jesus do?
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a `sinner.'” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount .”Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.
Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
1 Corinthians 10:17
The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium
The Eucharist is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.
There’s a disturbing trend within our churches today. Simply put, we are seeing the embrace of our churches become less-and-less inclusive. More-and-more, our churches are demanding a purity and exclusivity not demanded by Jesus in Gospels. Indeed, the very word ‘inclusivity’ is often glibly dismissed as being part of the ‘I am spiritual but not religious’ ethos, as if being inclusive were some kind of light-weight, New-Age, thing rather than a central demand within Christian discipleship itself.
Rev. Ron Rolheiser, OMI
Jesus’ table fellowship with the outcasts of society, his eating with them as a friend, epitomized the scandal of inclusiveness for his time, for he invited the others that were rejected to the fellowship of a meal. Moreover, this table fellowship became both a symbol of a messianic banquet, where all would feast together in joy, and a precursor of the sacrament of the eucharist. Thus, Jesus’ invitation to the outsiders to join him as friends at the table became an enacted parable of God’s friendship with humanity: the God of Jesus is the One who invites us to table to eat together as friends.
For Jesus, there seems to be no doubt about the fact that the table always had to be open. Nobody for any reason was to be excluded…Of all the deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospel, this might well be the most revolutionary. And the intention is unambiguously clear: radical inclusiveness and mutual empowerment. There is no moralizing or hints of getting all these wayward people to change their lifestyles. We are encountering an ethics of care, mutuality, empowerment, with unconditional love at its core.
Denying communion to politicians, Democrat or Republican, is a bad idea. If you deny the sacrament to those who support abortion, then you must also deny it to those who support the death penalty. How about those who don’t help the poor? How about “Laudato Si”? Where does it end?
James Martin, SJ
To use Christian table fellowship-the eucharist- as a mark of official acceptance of an individual, of approval of his or her moral perspective or social and political stance, to include or exclude at will those with whom one agrees or disagrees, is a shameful abuse of power.