Memory of the Poor

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Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

1 Corinthians 11, 17-34

Now that I am on the subject of instructions, I cannot congratulate you on the meetings you hold; they do more harm than good.

In the first place, I hear that when you all come together in your assembly, there are separate factions among you, and to some extent I believe it.

It is no bad thing, either, that there should be differing groups among you so that those who are to be trusted among you can be clearly recognised.

So, when you meet together, it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat;

for when the eating begins, each one of you has his own supper first, and there is one going hungry while another is getting drunk.

Surely you have homes for doing your eating and drinking in? Or have you such disregard for God's assembly that you can put to shame those who have nothing? What am I to say to you? Congratulate you? On this I cannot congratulate you.

For the tradition I received from the Lord and also handed on to you is that on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread,

and after he had given thanks, he broke it, and he said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.'

And in the same way, with the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.'

Whenever you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes.

Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.

Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup;

because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.

That is why many of you are weak and ill and a good number have died.

If we were critical of ourselves we would not be condemned,

but when we are judged by the Lord, we are corrected by the Lord to save us from being condemned along with the world.

So then, my brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for each other;

anyone who is hungry should eat at home. Then your meeting will not bring your condemnation. The other matters I shall arrange when I come.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The second question is about the order of the Eucharistic suppers. Even in the previous passage (in which he wrote about women’s dress), Paul wrote about the liturgical assembly, as if to express its centrality. The Eucharist was truly the source of new life and new behaviours for the believers: it was the fount and the culmination of Christian life, as Vatican II would say twenty centuries later. In Paul’s time, the Eucharist was celebrated at the end of a communal super that gathered the entire community together. And so it sometimes happened that certain people ate their food without taking into consideration those who were poorer, thus showing distance and disinterest instead of communion and love. Their behaviour was a direct betrayal of the sacrament of unity. The apostle is very aware of the fact that not everything should be accepted in the community and that sometimes it is good for there to be limits and corrections: “Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine” (v. 19); however, when it gathers around the one bread, the community should be “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). Consequently, Paul does not hesitate to call the selfishness that manifested itself in the Lord’s Supper as sacrilege. And in order to defend the primacy of communion in the community, he narrates the institution of the Eucharist. The institution of the Eucharist, including its wording, is not Paul’s creation. He received it, and he is, in turn, passing it on. It is the Church’s most precious treasure. For the apostle, it is clear that fraternity in the community is closely tied to the celebration of the Eucharist, the memorial of Christ. While we are celebrating our communion with Christ, we cannot deny it with selfish behaviour or scorn for the others. The body “broken” and the wine “poured out” for others show us the spirit in which we need to participate in the Eucharistic celebration. The disciples, too, are asked not to live for themselves, but for others.