Cycle A, June 2011
Deut: 8: 2-16. 1 Corinth: 10: 16-17. John 6: 51-58.
Rev Dcn Tony van Vuuren
The inauguration of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated first and foremost on Holy Thursday in its natural place the night before Jesus died on the cross. But it is because that celebration takes place very much in the context of the sadness of the events of Christ’s passion and death, the Church gives us this second feast; Corpus Christi; established in 1264; to help us celebrate more fully how God continues to make Himself present to His Church; how He sustains and nourishes us through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; how the risen Christ walks among us and guides us.
On the night before He died Jesus gave His disciples a meal with a difference. It was a meal during which, and through which, He showed them the very depths of His love.
At every mass, the liturgy of the Word precedes the Eucharistic liturgy. There are two “communions,” one with the Word and one with the Bread. One cannot be understood without the other; and celebrating this solemnity is one of those times that really requires all of us; readers and congregation to meditate on the readings for a good while. They may be so familiar that perhaps they have lost their impact; but, it is their meaning that highlights an essential part of the Catholic Faith. The focus of the readings is clearly on the value of the Eucharist in our lives.
Moses says “not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.” Paul challenges the Corinth Christians to become the food they eat; the Body of Christ. “We though many are one body for we all partake of the one loaf.” In the Gospel passage from John, Jesus says “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
The Jews that Jesus was addressing in John 6 had gathered to ask him for more bread. Jesus promised to give them the sacramental bread instead. But in their worldly frame of mind they could not understand or appreciate the sacrament. They disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They ended up distancing themselves from the Eucharist because the sacramental language makes no sense in a world of materialism.
The same problem that these early would-be followers of Jesus had is still with us today. If we approach the Eucharist with a materialistic mentality we fail to understand and so lose the benefits of such a wonderful gift of God’s love. The Eucharist is true food but at the same time it is very different from every other food. The great difference lies in these words of Christ which St Augustine heard in prayer, “You will not change me into yourself as you would food of your flesh; but you will be changed into me.”
When we come to receive Communion and the Ministers of Holy Communion hold the sacred food before us, they will say, “The Body of Christ.” They are not only naming what they are offering us to eat, they are also naming each one of us, for we are, “the body of Christ.” We enter into communion with the very life of Christ.
The Eucharist, an important tenet of our faith, is why many people who are so disenchanted with so much about the Church choose to stay anyway and in spite of! It is also why those who do not believe in the Eucharist think our faith is “way out there.” As firm believers in the Eucharist, it is because it is indeed “way out there” that it is so important to us. It is not only symbolism; and there is nothing magic about the Eucharist!
There is something really extraordinary about a tangible God whom we can experience through our human senses. The Eucharist reminds us that God in the Person of Jesus is always present to us, is always ready to nourish us.
The celebration of the Eucharist has no meaning if it is not lived with love. To reverence the Eucharist and to partake in the Eucharist with such an understanding is life-changing. We are called into an ever-deeper union with our God. It is because of the Eucharist that God’s Word is such a source of empowerment for us as well as a source of nourishment.
Scripture tells us we are to become like Jesus; we are to become the person whose Body we eat. This transforming of one’s life is an inside job, only done by God’s grace. We can cooperate by meditating on God’s Word and by living as we are so guided to do. We are called to appreciate these gifts that we have been given in a special way. We are also called to reflect on how we might use them in God’s service.
To celebrate the Eucharist is to commit oneself to a discipleship that “remembers” Jesus, not only in the ritual breaking of the bread, but also in the “imitation” of Jesus. In order to bring the love of our God into a world that is in such need of unconditional love, we must be nourished ourselves and empowered to act as Jesus did.
Having received the body of Christ we must ask ourselves some questions; because to worship in spirit and truth requires that our liturgy and ritual prayer be linked with our daily living. How do we bring our daily living into the Eucharistic celebration? What effect does the Eucharist have on our daily living? How does our devotion to the Eucharist and devotion to family and work enable us to be true disciples, in adoration before the Eucharistic presence of Jesus?
How are we to be like Christ and feed the hungry? What is our relationship between Eucharist and Reconciliation? Who is excluded from our love at this moment? Who is crying out for our presence? What do we say to those who are unable to partake of the Lord’s Supper?
The Eucharist does not only provide inner strength, but also a certain way of life. It is a way of living that is passed from Jesus to us Christians.
Sunday Mass and Holy Communion should not just be an obligation to be fulfilled, but a privilege to celebrate. An honest look into our hearts and into our attitude would do each one of us a lot of spiritual good and might make many of us find we have an urgent need to turn over a new leaf. Including myself!