It’s a ritual I’ve been participating in for longer than I can remember. Sunday arrives. My wife and I arrive at the chapel. We shake hands. We tousle a few Sunbeams’ hair. We’re happy to be here. We sit. We sing. We pray. Then the main event:
Bread first: break, bless, pass, eat.
Water second: bless, pass, drink.
Repeat weekly. It’s a simple routine. It’s all over in a matter of minutes. I’m as guilty as the next person of sometimes just going through the motions. But though I’ve taken the sacrament more times than I can count during my lifetime, lately it’s taken on new meaning for me. It’s become anything but routine.
Seeing Things Differently
We all spend time in the refiner’s fire. Lately, though, I’ve wondered if my family has seen more than our share of the flames. Over the last few years we’ve been through some really hard things: deaths in the family, health problems, financial worries, loved ones dealing with divorce and addiction—you get the picture. All families have their struggles. We’re not unique. But sometimes it just feels like too much. Honestly, sometimes it is too much.
As the deacons made their rounds with the sacrament trays on a recent Sunday and I sat in the pews, these worries weighing on me, a thought came that made me see the sacrament in a way I’d never seen it before.
I remembered the account in the gospel of Mark, where a sick woman reaches out in faith to touch Jesus’s robe as He walks by, hoping to be healed (see Mark 5:25–34).
In almost all the artistic representations of this story the artists show a feeble woman crawling on her hands and knees with one arm outstretched, reaching, straining to touch the hem of Christ’s robe. You can see in her eyes that she has suffered greatly in her life, that she is yearning to be healed, that there is intent in her gesture to receive this blessing, and that this may be her only chance to be whole again. I bet she was just plain old weary.
And as I reached out my hand to receive the bread and the water that day, I imagined myself in that woman’s place. Was I reaching with the same faith she had? Like her, did I believe that this experience, thanks to Christ’s Atonement, could make me whole, despite any hardships?
Healing Is within Reach
In truth, healing is exactly what Christ is offering to each of us every week as we receive the sacrament. But we have to want it. We have to yearn for it. We have to reach from deep down inside of us and bring forth our brokenness, believing that He will receive our broken selves and heal us. This requires faith. It requires focus, as much focus as was present in this suffering woman. Our brains get distracted and wander so easily. The cares of the world seep in so effortlessly. Our shame and guilt beg to stay hidden even from ourselves.
So I pondered: how did this woman find the faith to reach out to the Savior? After all of her trials, and through the fog of despair, she found the strength to put herself in a place where she could reach out.
I let my mind follow her, back to when she first heard of the Savior, how her heart burned with confirmation. Do I prepare for the sacrament by reading about the Savior and letting the Spirit fill my heart? Then this woman, in poor health, made her way among the throngs of people to a place where she could see this Jesus whom she had heard of. OK, so I can make my way to church physically, but can I be better at getting myself to a spiritual place where I can reach out to Him? It dawned on me that we sing a hymn for this very reason. I tried focusing on the words, letting them be a prayer. And the woman waited. That is the hardest part, being patient. So between prayers, I try now to still my mind and wait. I know His Spirit is near. Just be patient and let it arrive.
When she touched Him, there was a physical exchange. The Savior perceived that virtue had gone out of Him. And she perceived that something had transformed inside her. This is something to ponder as we symbolically partake of His body and blood. What transforms inside of us? Here the words from the prayer came to mind: that we may always remember Him. That we may always remember how we feel, how we are changed when we take the sacrament with full purpose of heart.
Break. Bless. Pass. During the weekly sacrament we, in our need, can touch the hem of the Savior’s garment as our hands and hearts reach to receive the Bread of Life and the Living Water, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We, like the woman, can be made whole.