Being filled by a tiny bite of bread and a few drops of water
Can you imagine how the Nephites felt when they received the sacred emblems of the Sacrament from the Savior Himself? Just hours before, each had stretched forth his or her hand to feel the wounds in His side and the craters in his hands and feet. Now, the Redeemer of the world was kneeling on the ground in front of them, blessing the pieces of bread that symbolize His own broken flesh they had just touched. They would see Him groan within Himself and weep to His Father in prayer. They had heard Him tell of how He drunk the bitter cup and His will was swallowed up in the Father's. Now He offered them the sweet cup of wine so He could swallow their sins.
With that in mind, pay attention to the repeated words describing the people's experience with Christ's Sacrament. First, the record states that the Twelve Nephite disciples partook of the bread "and were filled." Then, they administered the bread to the multitude, who ate "and were filled." Next came the wine. The disciples "did drink of it and were filled" and afterward shared the wine with the multitude who "did drink, and they were filled."
When I read these verses recently, a question was impressed upon my mind: how often do I feel filled by the Sacrament?
The Sacrament feast
When I originally considered this question, it was a few days after Thanksgiving– that time of the year when everyone in America becomes an expert in what it feels like to be "filled" as we bust our calorie limits on the best dishes our kitchens can offer the world. As Latter-day Saints, we also enjoy a smaller (and hopefully more reverent) version of that filling feast every month as we gather as a family to break our fast. But remember: to the hungry Jews looking for a loaves and fishes entree encore, Christ warned against the "meat which perisheth." To the Samaritan woman, He warned that whoever drank of the well of Jacob "shall thirst again." Christ reminds us that even the most satisfying meals only satiate us for a few hours. That's why even as we snack and slurp ourselves into a food coma, we are careful to remember store leftovers for tomorrow when those hunger pains come pining again.
So again I ask myself, how often do I feel filled by the Sacrament? How does the fleeting full-ness that follows a physical feast compare to the spiritual fullness that I should experience every time I partake of the Lord's Supper? When the priest kneels on the ground like the Savior in Gethsemane, is my mind on the words of that most important prayer of the week? When the broken emblems of my Lord's flesh are passed to me, do I consider the wounds that broke them in the first place? When I place the water to my lips, do I think of His "blood that dripped like rain?" Am I feasting and drinking deeply from the sacred offering at the Sacrament table? Or do I let other thoughts and distractions prevent the Lord's Sacrament from spiritually filling and renewing me?
Many areas across the world, like my home in the Southeastern United States, are finally allowing Sacrament meetings to resume following the loosening of COVID lockdowns. I expected to be rejuvenated and renewed with this restored blessing. But now we are a few months in, and I'm sad to report that my personal Sacrament experience has not changed all that much. Even though I missed communing with the Lord and the Saints in His chapel, I still find myself distracted by the quiet, routine nature of it all. I almost think wistfully of a few weeks ago when my wife and I could partake of the Sacrament in our home, after the kids were put to bed, listening to sacred piano music and enjoying the reverent stillness of a quiet home. Or maybe I could be jealous of the Nephites who were blessed to partake of the Sacrament in the presence of the Savior. Then, surely my mind would be more attentive and I could finally have a sublime spiritual experience, right? Wrong.
Our salvation has nothing to do with our situation.
There is no important difference between what we enjoy each week and what the Nephites received at the Savior's hand. From what has been revealed, the Sacrament that is administered in our chapels and our homes today is the same Sacrament, renewing the same saving covenant, administered by the same authority, with the same promises as was given to the Nephites. The only difference is, for lack of a better term, the optics of the experience. Today it's not new, it's not miraculously provided, and the Savior is not physically present. But really, that doesn't and shouldn't matter. What makes the difference is not whether the Lord is physically present, but whether we are spiritually present. That's 100% on us– our salvation has nothing to do with our situation.
To people like me who sometimes get distracted from the most sacred few minutes of the week, Elder Joseph B Wirthlin counseled:
Too many sit at the banquet table of the gospel of Jesus Christ and merely nibble at the feast placed before them. They go through the motions… but their hearts are far away. If they are honest, they would admit to being more interested in the latest neighborhood rumors, stock market trends, and their favorite TV show than they are in the supernal wonders and sweet ministerings of the Holy Spirit… Drink deeply of the living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To us, the promise is the same as the Israelites who participated in the Lord's Supper with the Lord Himself. Christ promises that as we come to the Sacrament "hungering after righteousness" and thirsting for salvation, "he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" for "the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Like the Nephites, we can take that tiny bite of bread and those few drops of water and be filled.