The Passover meal was (and is) a memorial of the Israelites’ escape from bondage in Egypt through God’s miraculous aid. At his last Passover meal before his death, Jesus made the mysterious statement that the bread and wine were his body and blood and that his followers should “do this in remembrance of me.” Later, his followers understood that Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection had somehow freed them from sin, evil, and death, and they adopted the custom of meeting on Sundays (the day of resurrection) and joining in a communal meal featuring bread and wine, telling the story of Jesus’ last supper over and over, week by week. This ceremony has come to be called “communion” and the “Eucharist” (from a Greek word meaning thanksgiving) and the “Mass” (from the Latin words of dismissal: “ite, missa est”).
What happens when we do this? Philosophers and theologians have speculated; no one can fully explain it. The Church has said that it is a means by which God gives us gifts, primarily the gift of himself. But when the Son of God, who was there when the stars were created, asks you to “do this in remembrance of me,” you do it. We can be sure of one thing: what the loving God wants us to do is good for us. But it is not something to be engaged in casually. It is not like a drop-in buffet that we can take or leave alone. It is part of a life-long commitment to following Jesus. It is practice for the time when we will be faced with the choice: live with the loving God forever in bliss, or fall into unreality and despair. Choose life, choose God, commit to following him. That’s what we are trying to do at St. Barnabas.