THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
Today we celebrate in a special way the Feast of The Body and Blood of Christ or the Holy Sacrement. His Body and Blood has been present all along the history of the Church, from the beginning until today and forever. His Body and Blood is always there to give life and nourish all the members of the Church, who are you and me.
Reflections on this Sacrement are so rich, numerous and actually endless. Therefore, in my limited capacity, please let me offer you a simple reflection on this Sacrament of love, based on the Gospel of this Sunday.
“You give something to them to eat!” (Lk 9:13)
Dear friend, Luke tells us that many crowds followed Jesus at that time. They were passionately listening to words revealing a God who is so loving that they never had heard before. One day, as usual, the people came to him from many places although he really needed to rest. He got up, welcomed them and again passionately told them about the heavenly Father while healing their wounds and sickness. Time flew without their awareness. His friends reminded him: “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”(Lk 9:12) But he loved them so much that he replied: “You yourself give them some food to eat!” Of course this was beyond their reach beause the number of the men was about five thousand, not including the women and the children (perhaps triple?). Ultimately, he gave them food to eat.
We understand the command “You give something to them to eat!” to mean that his friends should provide the people with food and drink, or share part of what they have with the poor, or lend a hand to the miserable. Dear friend, the majority of us are generous and we now and then give help to those who are less fortunate than us. In other words, we sometimes carry out the teaching of our Master Jesus; and therefore, in general, we are good disciples and good Christians. Thanks be to God!
However, dear friend, our vocation does not stop at being a good disciple or Christian. Our full vocation is to become like Jesus himself. His request in the context of the Gospel this Sunday is not the climax of his teaching yet. The sentence “You give something to them to eat!” is not enough for us to understand the meaning of the Eucharist. Why so? In order to find the answer, you are invited to contemplate the climax of his life, those last moments.
A few days before his Passion and death, Jesus told his friends: “This is my new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you!” (Jn 15:12) This is the climax of his teaching. And my friend, he has loved to the end, so in the last supper with them, he said: “Take and eat, all of you, this is my body given for you….Take and drink, all of you, this is my blood poured out for you… Do this in memory of me!” (Lk 22; 1Cor 11). From that moment on, our Master Jesus has been expressed his love for us concretely by offering us his Body and Blood each day to nourish us. This is the meaning of the Eucharist.
Dear friend, in order to understand the love present in the Holy Sacrement and live our Master’s commandment in his example, we need to change the sentence “You give something to them to eat!” to “You give yourselves to them to eat!” When we succeed in living the former, we become good Christians. But when we succeed in living the latter, we become like Christ himself.
But how do we give ourselves to others to eat? Perhaps there are different ways, but the simplest way is to contemplate Jesus to find the answer.
The Gospel today reports: the people ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled 12 wicker baskets. The number 12 in the Bible signifies “fullness”. No matter how big the crowd was, all were satisfied. Satisfied not only physically but wholly. All the pages of the Gospels show clearly that when someone is in contact with Jesus, he or she will be healed and made whole. The reason for this happening results from the fact that Jesus always gives himself. His giving is not just the sharing of food and clothes but also of joy and sorrow. The people felt not only tasty in their mouth but sweet in their heart, not only delicious in their tongue but also cheerful in their mind, not only nourished but also respected, not only consoled in the present but also guaranteed in the future. What he gave them was his mindfulness, his care, his compassion and his own life. The way he gave did not cause them to feel ashamed, guilty, lonely, contempt. The way he gave revived the energy of life in them, embraced and exalted their dignity. What he gave and how he gave brought them profound happiness.
Dear friend, let us once again contemplate the love Jesus graciously offers us in the Eucharist. And, let us have him help us become more and more like him each day!
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.