HOMILY

Jun. 22, 2019

Let us act like Abraham, thanking God in the Blessed Eucharist.

Readings: 1st- Gen. 14:18-20; 2nd- 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Gospel- Lk. 9:11-17

The actions of Melchizedek the "king of Salem" is very prominent in the first reading of today. Melchizedek brought out bread and wine and performed a priestly act. Scripture says, "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, Scripture foreshadows the simple meal Jesus gave us. The Psalm mentions Melchizedek again in reference to the priesthood thus, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps.110:1). Melchizedek points to the priestly image of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of his body and blood on the Cross. To date, priests in the Catholic Church are ordained in the order of Melchizedek. Priests are anointed to bless God’s faithful just like Melchizedek blessed Abraham. The priesthood finds its meaning in the Blessed Eucharist.

Jesus alone can fulfill the deepest desires of the human soul. In the gospel, Luke takes us beyond satisfaction of the physical hunger by Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. Luke reports, "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). The people ate and were satisfied from the food given to them by Jesus. This is different from the Last Supper even though Jesus performs similar action of breaking the bread and blessing it. The feeding of the five thousand fulfills an important aspect of the Blessed Eucharist as 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. In it, Jesus gives himself to humanity, empties himself that humanity may have life in full. The eucharistic bread is broken and shared to the satisfaction of the worshipping community.

Saint Paul recounts the eucharistic tradition this way, "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". We call it the feast of Corpus Christi. Jesus gives himself to us in the Blessed Eucharist, "Take and eat, take and drink, in remembrance of me. 

The Eucharist is the Great Memorial, an event that recalls Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. We commemorate his sacrifice at Mass. We receive his body and drink his blood. We share in the one bread and one cup. We pass on to others the love of Christ inviting them to the communion of love in thanksgiving to God. 

In the Eucharist, Jesus takes up the bread. He blesses the bread. He breaks the bread. And he gives it to the disciples. In these actions, Jesus takes up our humanity, blesses us with his divine presence. Jesus breaks himself up for us, accepting suffering and death. He then offers himself on the cross for our salvation. This is why the Eucharist is the greatest sacrament in the Church. Jesus takes up our humanity, our weaknesses, and our failures and offers them up to the Father. 

We have to thank God in the Blessed Eucharist. By eating the Body of Christ and drinking his blood, we become like him. 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). 

Having received blessings from Melchizedek, Abraham gives thanks to God for the divine encounter. He offers one tenth of everything to God in thanksgiving for his goodness. Abraham teaches us to be thankful to God always especially when we celebrate the Eucharist. Christ says, "Do this in remembrance of me," invites us to be thankful for the great gift of the Eucharist. 

In the Eucharist therefore, we become what we eat. We develop a thankful attitude. We reverently approach God. We praise him for what he has done for us. In Christ, God satisfies our physical and spiritual hunger, feeds and enriches us with his grace. Christ says, “Take and eat. Take and drink.” He is saying to us, “I am your gift. Eat me and drink me. Have life through me.”  This calls for great thanksgiving from us. We are God’s people. He feeds us, strengthens and nourishes us in the Blessed Eucharist.

Let us act like Abraham. Let us be thankful. Let us show gratitude to God by receiving the Eucharist with reverence and awe. And He will keep blessing us now and forever. Amen. 

 

Mar. 31, 2017

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.