On this feast day of the Body and Blood of Christ we joyfully and collectively give thanks to God for Christ’s abiding presence among us made visible in the Eucharist. In and through the Eucharistic species, the Risen Lord is personally and really present, and nourishes us spiritually. Today, we focus our attention solely on the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, which is the source and summit of our Christian life, and publicly profess our faith in the real presence of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. It is the only precious gift that Jesus gave to his Church that we not only see and touch but also eat and drink.
We human beings suffer from many kinds of hunger. There is the hunger for ordinary bread and unless this is satisfied, no life is possible. There is a hunger for love, because to love and to be loved is the yearning of every heart. Unless this is satisfied, a person will always be in anguish.There is a hunger for meaning and unless this is satisfied, a person will always remain dissatisfied. There is a thirst for God experience and this can become a reality when we are able to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus, who is the bread of life for all of us.
During the public ministry we see how Jesus became the bread of life to various categories of people satisfying their hunger and thirst. To the people who followed him into the desert, and who were starving, he offered ordinary bread, which satisfied their physical hunger. To the leper whose body was falling apart, he offered the only bread that mattered to him, the bread of physical healing. To Mary Magdalene, the public sinner, he offered the bread of forgiveness, and thus satisfied her hunger for acceptance. To the lonely woman at Jacob’s well, he offered the bread of human kindness, and thus satisfied her hunger for love.
He mixed freely with the marginalized and the rejected by sharing their bread, he offered the bread of companionship, and so satisfied their hunger for self-worth. To the widow of Naim, who was burring her only son, and to Martha and Mary, who had just buried their brother Lazarus, he offered the bread of sympathy, and thus showed them that even in death we are not beyond the reach of God’s help. With Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector who had robbed the bread from the tables of the poor, he began inviting himself to his table. Then having awakened within him a hunger for a better life, he got him to share his ill-gotten money with the poor. To the thief who died at his side he offered the bread of reconciliation with God, thus bringing peace to his troubled soul. Thus we see that Christ shared himself with others in many different ways, and under many different forms, before offering himself to them a food and drink at the last supper.
We also find that there are people who refused to his offer of bread. There was the rich young man to whom he offered the bread of discipleship, but he refused it because he was unwilling to part with his riches.
There was Pilate to whom he offered the bread of truth, but who had no appetite for it, because it meant putting his position and power at risk.
There were people of his beloved city of Jerusalem to whim with tears in his eyes, he offered the bread of peace, but they refused it with the result that their city was destroyed.
There were scribbles and Pharisees to whom he offered not once, but several times, the bread of conversion, but they refused to eat even a crumb of it.
To everyone Christ offers the only bread that will ultimately satisfy the hunger, which the heavenly Father has placed in our hearts, namely, the bread of eternal life. “Come to me all who labor and overburdened and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you.” “I am the bread of life came down from heaven and anyone who eats of this bread will live forever.”
Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper and commanded us to “do in memory of me.” As a Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist is an outward sign in and through which we meet Jesus who shares his life of grace with us. “In the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist the Body and Blood, together with the soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC#1374). In this Sacrament of the Eucharist, we do meet Jesus, the Risen Lord who comes to us under signs of Bread and Wine to nourish and strengthen us for our journey through life.
While instituting the Eucharist, the four words or gestures used by Jesus (cf. today’s gospel, 14:22) – namely, (1) taking a loaf of bread, (2) blessing it, (3) breaking it and (4) giving it to his disciples – can be applied to our life in two ways: First of all, by giving us the strength of the Eucharist, God himself (1) takes us as his own possession from the moment of our faith-surrender to him; (2) blesses us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3); (3) breaks our pride, selfish and sinful desires, bad habits, and wrong attitudes; and (4) gives or offers us for the service of humankind. Secondly, nourished by the Eucharist, God himself sends us out to (1) take our gifts and blessings to others; (2) to bless (or praise and thank) him for all our gifts – our health, time, talents, jobs, friends, family and faith; (3) to break these gifts and blessings by sharing, spending and sacrificing them for the good of others; and thus (4) to give our lives for the salvation of the world. These four gestures remind us that the Eucharist is not an end in itself, but gives us the strength and generosity to take, bless, break and give all that we are and all that we have. Do we ask for this grace after receiving Holy Communion?