JESUS TAKES, BLESSES, BREAKS AND GIVES
After my ordination in 2006, I was teaching catechism to a young lady in the RCIA program. She had some hearing impairment. As we started discussing the Eucharist, we read the gospel passage of John 6:56, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person". My candidate didn't seem to understand that well enough. Then she asked me, "Reverend, are you telling me you will now live in me and I live in you?" I quickly told her no. "It's not me but that Jesus will live in you and you in Jesus through the Eucharist". Whether she understood that or not, I wasn't too sure. That was a surprise question indeed but each time I reflect on the Eucharist, I think of the implications of that statement. I think also of the reaction of the Jews on hearing such statement from Christ. Jesus tells us that eating and drinking his body and blood means uniting ourselves intimately with him- "live in me and I in you". That's what the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ commemorates. The catechism teaches that the Blessed Eucharist is a sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, in the appearance of bread and wine.
The first reading of today takes our attention back to the actions of Melchizedek the "king of Salem". Not much is known about Melchizedek, we're only told he was the king of Salem. He was not a Hebrew. Melchizedek brought out bread and wine and performed a priestly act. Scripture says of Melkchizedek, "...and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram". Melchizedek is known as a high priest of the Old Testament. In Melchizedek's action, the church recognizes a prefigurement of the simple meal Jesus gave us to remember.The Psalm mentions Melchizedek again in reference to the priesthood thus, "You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps.110:1).
In Luke's gospel for today's feast, one wonders the relationship between the Eucharist and Jesus' feeding of the hungry crowds. The narrative needs a deeper understanding; that Jesus alone can fulfill the deepest desires of the human soul. Luke takes us beyond satisfaction of the physical hunger of Jesus' followers. The disciples recognize hunger in the people but are unable to solve their spiritual problem. They seek human solution when they say, "Unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people". They recognize the external hunger, Jesus takes care of the internal. He performs a priestly act that is similar to what Melchizedek did. "Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples..." (Lk.9:16). They people ate and were satisfied from the food given to them by Jesus.
This fulfills an important aspect of the Blessed Eucharist. It is an act of thanksgiving (cf. CCC 1328). The Eucharist is an expression of God's generosity to mankind. It brings satisfaction to those who receive it. Jesus, did not cling to his equality with God. He emptied himself on the cross for us to have life. He gave us himself.
Saint Paul narrates the tradition he received from the Lord in the second reading, "that on the night he was handed over, the Lord Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me". The same with the cup of wine saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me". This is the feast of Corpus Christi, Jesus gives himself to us in the Blessed Eucharist. He says, "Take and eat, take and drink, in remembrance of me.
Memorial Day in the U.S. is a public holiday set aside for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. Think about the services of these brave soldiers who died in love of their country. We keep their memories-that's why we call it Memorial Day. We celebrate their heroism. Jesus died for us. He gave himself for us. He tells us, "Do this in memory of me". Jesus is our supreme-hero. The Eucharist is therefore the Great Memorial. We remember his passion, death and resurrection. We commemorate his sacrifice on the cross at Mass. We eat his body, drink his blood.
Jesus does four principal actions in the Eucharist- He takes, he blesses, he breaks and he gives. Jesus takes up our humanity. He blesses us with his divine presence. He breaks himself up for us by accepting suffering and death. He then gives himself to death on the cross for our salvation. This is why the Eucharist is the greatest of the sacraments in the Church. Jesus takes up our humanity in exchange for his divinity.
When he says, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him", he makes us sharers and partakers in his divine life through the Eucharist. We become like him. We become thankful to God because we derive life from the Eucharist. Pope John Paul 11 explains, "The church draws her life from the Eucharist...in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no.1).
Two categories of persons present themselves as instances of encounter with God in today's readings. Abraham in the first reading and the crowds who followed Jesus in the gospel. Abraham received priestly blessing from Melchizedek and gave thanks to God. He offered one tenth of everything to God in thanksgiving for his goodness. The crowds of the gospel ate and were satisfied. Both Melchizedek and Christ perform priestly acts. Melchizedek took the bread and wine and blessed Abraham. Christ took the bread, blessed, broke and gave to his followers. Christ is the fullness of the priesthood. He gave his church the mandate, "Do this in remembrance of me". The priest does exactly the same thing at Mass. He reenacts the sacrifice of Christ. The priest takes the bread and wine, breaks, blesses and gives to the followers of Christ at Mass. We must be regularly satisfied with Christ as we encounter him at Mass.
Let's not take the Eucharist for granted. Let's not see receiving the Eucharist as mere routine. We become what we eat, remember. Since we eat Christ, then we have to be and act like Christ. We need to be thankful for the Eucharist. We need to approach God reverently in the Eucharist. Christ satisfies our physical and spiritual needs. He blesses us. He takes up our inner hunger. He satisfies our hunger for grace. He fills up our internal lack. He takes up our transgressions. He gives himself up for our salvation. We need to recognize that an enormous exchange takes place each time we receive the Eucharist. Let us learn to give back to God in appreciation for the Blessed Eucharist. Let us act like Abraham. Let us offer generously our service and our resources to God in the Eucharist. Let us look out for best ways to reciprocate God's generosity and love in the Eucharist.
May Christ in the Blessed Eucharist satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst for God. Amen.