Rev Tony Van Vuuren
Luke 9: 11-17
2nd June 2013
The three readings for the Feast of Corpus Christi invite us to reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is nourishment. It is not like a medicine that automatically heals an ailment; it must be received with faith, accepting the commitment that the act of eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ entails.
The readings open for us the close link between the Eucharist and life; between the bread that is Christ and the bread that nourishes the body. We cannot be in communion with the Body of the Lord without sharing what we have. The bread is broken; Christ shares his life with us so that we will be broken for others in his name.
The cup is poured out for us, so that we will, in our turn, pour ourselves out as we forgive those who have offended us; nourish the hungry and be a guide to those in their own “lonely places.”
We openly manifest what Jesus has given us in the intimacy of the Last Supper, because Christ’s love is not confined to the few, but is intended for all. Luke’s Gospel account of the multiplication is about a “come-one, come-all meal.”
The qualification to receive food was a person’s hunger and inability to provide food for themselves in a lonely and desolate place. There is a theme through Luke’s gospel of Jesus eating, not just with his disciples, but also with those considered objectionable.
His invitation to eat was an announcing sign that all: the religious upright and the unclean; the Jew and Gentile; the prosperous and the destitute, all women and men, were all welcomed into the reign of God that he was initiating.
Jesus says; “Do this in memory of me.” Some of our most profound memories are associated with food and wine and the people with whom we’ve shared it. The food need not be anything special, but we savour it because of those who are with us or the event we commemorate.
In the Eucharist, we gather to remember Christ’s sacrifice. The bread and wine are simple ingredients, requiring little preparation. The real preparation occurs in our hearts. As we listen to the words of the consecration and offer praise and thanksgiving, we open ourselves to be healed and blessed; to be transformed just as the bread and wine are transformed.
We are reminded not only of how much God loves us, but, in particular, of the never-ending Gift of Jesus in the form of His Body and Blood. Just contemplating the enormity of those two thoughts is almost overwhelming. The disciples were privileged to share their lives with Jesus for three years; culminating in the breaking of bread at the Last Supper; a meal with a difference. Jesus did not want to be forgotten.
He took bread, blessed and broke it and said: Do this in memory of me. Jesus ensured that through His gift of the Eucharist he would be as much alive to us today as he was during those three years on the road to Jerusalem.
Gratefulness for being able to receive the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus should be a given. Attention to our attitude in receiving these Gifts and the frequency of receiving are both part of on-going refinement for most of us for whom availability is not a constant challenge. Paul reminds us of the true value of this gift; “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
Proclaiming the death of the Lord, is not just about recalling Jesus’ terrible suffering. We could get stuck feeling guilt-ridden if we stop there. The horrible suffering was the only way to redeem us from our sins. In this redemption, however, comes the joy of freedom from those sins and, consequently, more joyful living now and the hope of heaven once again.
That is what needs to be proclaimed, and proclaimed to everyone at every moment possible. In frequent and worthy reception of the Body of Christ, we become strengthened to share this Truth with others.
- We become strengthened to live a “good life” until Jesus comes again.
- We become strengthened to lift our heads up if we are weighed down with challenges.
- We become strengthened to speak words of hope if we are silenced by oppression or sorrow or abuse.
- We become strengthened to move forward if we are stuck in sin or almost in despair.
- We become more like the Jesus we receive.
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 bodily food; but you will be changed into me.”
This is a day to celebrate for all those of us who think “poor pitiful me” all the time or just occasionally or if ever. It is today rather that we can think of “blessed me” forever! It is a turning point type of feast day, a day in which by deepening our understanding of how God views us, we can become empowered to share that Good News with others.
When the disciples suggest to Jesus that they send the multitude away he challenges them, “You give them something to eat.” Challenges them to see the hungry around them, offer hospitality and feed them in body and spirit, no matter who they are. We are given that same challenge as we gather in worship, searching for nourishment and healing.
Our response sometimes may be uncertainty, doubt and confusion as we look at the enormity of the problems, but we will always be challenged and reminded as individuals and as a parish community to see to the needs of those who find themselves in lonely and desolate places.
Through the sacrament of Holy Communion we become one with Christ, and we do remember as he asks us to. We remember His compassion, His life, His forgiveness, His teachings and His love. We remember too that He died on the Cross for our sake.
Through the Eucharist we have the opportunity to pray for commitment and strength in offering our lives to Christ in His service; and we pray that we might be sincere in the commitment we make whenever we receive the Body of Christ, and we thank God for the strength that he gives us to live out this commitment.