The Eucharist: The body of Christ, bread that is broken for the life of the world
Readings: Exodus 24:3-8, Psalm 116:12-13,15 and 16bc,17-18, Hebrews 9:11-15 , Mark 14:12-16.22-26
Dear brother and sisters, today we celebrate a special day dedicated to the body and blood of Christ. Each and every day, we celebrate the Holy Eucharist but perhaps some times we have become so familiar with this experience that it does not anymore arouse awe and wonder in us.
So, todays feast enables us ones again to enter into and discover the mysteries of God’s love that are embedded in this sacramental reality of the offering of Christs body and blood for the salvation of the world. The context in which the initial celebration of the Eucharist occurred was as an offering of thanksgiving to God for the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. They celebrated a Passover meal to remember that night when God guided them into the desert and eventually to the promised land. This feast in Christ, coincides with the offering of himself as the sacrificial victim for the redemption of the entire humanity. So, when Christ offers his body and blood for our salvation, he opens the doors of redemption to all who partake in this banquet.
When we read the gospel of John chapter 6, Jesus presents himself as the bread of life. He affirms that whoever eats of this bread and drinks of his blood will never die. So, the sacrifice offered is Christ himself who is also the high priest. He offered this sacrifice once and for all for humanity. The second reading gives us the clear distinction of him as the high priest who unlike the other priests who offer sacrifice for their own sins and for the sins of the people in various offerings, did it ones and for all for the atonement of the sins of the world. In order to be beneficiaries of this sacrifice of Christ, it is important to come to him and believe in him because as he says it is those who come whose hunger will be satisfied and it is those who believe whose thirst will be quenched. The thirst that we have and the hunger must not therefore be just for material things, it must be a hunger and thirst for God. These are the kind that find satisfaction in Christ. Psalm 63 speaks about this hunger and thirst for God.
The first reading spoke to us about the covenant that was made with Moses and the people with God in which they swore to obey whatever God says. In Christ this covenant is renewed and made eternal by the sacrifice of his body and blood. So, we are part of the actors in this new and eternal covenant. Christ invites us all to partake of his body and blood. Often times when we see people lining up for communion, we may have the tendency to think that those are the worthy, those are the righteous. However, the Eucharist is not given on merit. If it were on merit perhaps not of us would be found worthy. This is why we should also look at it in the sacramental sense, that is a visible sign of an invisible grace that God himself offers to us as food for our pilgrimage journey here on earth as we seek eternal communion with God. So, the point of great importance is to accept ourselves as sinners and let this grace of God which is given in the Eucharist flow into us. Those who line for communion are public sinners, they have accepted their condition and are invited to partake in the eucharistic banquet. So, for those who do not take part in this banquet it is a time to challenge yourself, ask yourself what the impediment that are blocking you from accessing this grace are. Padre Pio used to say that if only men understood what treasure there is in the Eucharist, then they would be craving for it each and everyday more than anything else.
God gives us a great opportunity to be united with him, to have him enter full communion with him. It is such a wonder to which we need to open our eyes to each and every day. As we have heard from today’s gospel, Christ does this in the time of a meal so that the disciples realize his presence. The meal time is a time that unites and builds up the sense of communion. In fact, that is why we also call the eucharist communion, because as those who partake, we are united by the common bread and one chalice which is the body and blood of Christ. The feast of the unleavened bread that we heard in the gospel, was mainly celebrated by the farmers. It was a time of thanksgiving for the new harvest. It represented the newness of all things and thus renewal of life. We find this renewal and newness of life in the one and only sacrifice of Christ who brings this out through the new covenant.
Today’s gospel when critically read leads us to a eucharistic spirituality, of taking what one possesses, breaking it so as to be able to share and then giving it out to others. Christ takes his own body in his arms and breaks himself as bread to give life. He pours his own blood for the salvation of the world. Meaning that this kind of spirituality leads us to learn to live for others, to make sacrifices for others, to take whatever we have and share with others.
The recently beatified young man Carlo Acutis used to say that the Eucharist is our highway to heaven. He saw and understood its purpose in his life as a Christian and never missed the celebration of the eucharist any single day. The Eucharist is food for our souls, just as we nourish our bodies, so we must nourish our souls with the Eucharist so that we avoid a kind of spiritual malnutrition. May we always yearn to be united with him who gave his body and blood for us.
A blessed Sunday to you all and happy solemnity of the body and blood of Christ.