Monday, September 13, 2004

The Work of Human Hands: Active Participation

This article by Diana Macalintal first appeared in Eucharistic Ministries 243, June 2004.

The work of human handsWatch an artistic cook in the kitchen. She brings together the freshest vegetables and herbs, the choicest meats, the finest spices, mixes them with friends and strangers, hungry of belly and heart, and with her skill she creates a feast. Out of her labor, time, money and love, she gives nourishment for body and soul. Yet it was God who began her work by giving her the seed and the soil, the sun and the rain, her skill and art, the earth and life itself, and a heart full of love. Here, the work of divine goodness and the work of human hands co-operate to feed the body and to bond companions together.

In the Eucharist, the same collaboration is at work. The love of God gathers us together. In return we mix in not just bread and wine, but our whole selves—talents and hungers, joys and sorrows, faith and doubt. We are given the Word of life. In return we use that Word to shape our stories and name the moments of grace seen and unseen, and we draw out a word of comfort and hope for our shadowed world. We are freely given the Body of Christ and the Cup of Salvation. In return we let ourselves be kneaded into bread for those who hunger for food and crushed into wine for those who thirst for justice. We are given a commission—not payment for a task completed—but a charge to do “out there” what we have done “in here.” In return, we pay with the daily action of our lives in service to the Lord who we find in neighbor and stranger.

Those who gather around the table of a true cook receive food in abundance. But for this food to become a meal, all are expected to contribute their full presence and active participation in the table exchange. Like a meal, the Eucharist is both gift given and work done. But it is also sacrifice, an unequal, freely-offered gift-exchange made in love between the One from whom all good things come and us who have only the work of our human hands to give in return. Therefore, our Eucharistic meal cannot end at the table, or else it becomes a self-satiating act. The gift we receive carries an obligation and sends us out into the world to do the divinely human work we began in our Eucharist. Blessed be God who calls us to use our human hands to freely give what we have to those who cannot pay us back in return.


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