“I will lift up the cup of salvation * and call upon the Name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:11).
Saint Augustine, the fourth-century bishop, preached this in an Easter sermon: “You are the body of Christ. In you and through you the work of God must go forward. You are to be taken; you are to be blessed, broken, and distributed; that you may be the means of grace and the vehicles of the eternal charity.”
That sermon isn’t lost on me today for two reasons. The Gospel, the charming and moving account of Easter night according to Saint Luke, brings that sermon to mind. You remember the supper with Cleopas and his friend after traveling to Emmaus. While Jesus said the blessing and broke the bread, they recognized him. The resurrected Jesus was with them all day long on their journey, but they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. The Gospel looks back to the breaking of Jesus on the cross, and it looks forward to our encounter with the risen Christ after our breaking, the breaking of self-will, which Augustine mentions so lightly: we are to be broken and distributed to be the eternal charity of a loving and merciful God. Every Eucharist follows the pattern of Emmaus: Christ is ever with us, but in breaking the bread which is his body, we particularly recognize the Lord, and we offer ourselves in his service to be distributed in his name to be the means of grace and the means of God’s love in the world.
And, secondly, that sermon of Augustine’s isn’t lost on me because of the congregation here present. Like the communion bread and the bread in Emmaus, we are being offered by Christ himself to the mission of the church, and in that offering, we shall find that we ourselves are being blessed, and broken, and distributed, just as Saint Augustine preached: “You are the body of Christ.” It’s true of us all. It’s true of us all who enter Christ’s service with eyes wide open, whether layman, deacon, priest, or bishop. We are here, everyone of us, to be broken and distributed, to be offered up in sacrament and service to bear witness to the love of God, the love that knows no fear and the love that never ends. What other answer is there to the question in the Psalm, “How shall I repay the Lord * for all the good things he has done for me?” (Psalm 116:10).