Sunday, May 29, 2016

One Bread, one Body

This weekend we honor our fallen soldiers in Memorial services.  In the great conflicts in which our nation has fought, the total number of slain is truly staggering: more than 1.2 million.  I invite all of us to pray that our fallen soldiers have an eternal dwelling place with God.

DaVinci's Last Supper
Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ.

How often have we heard the question: what are we doing for dinner?  Grilling? Getting a pizza or a Chinese take-out?

Jesus invites us to participate in a sacrificial meal of thanksgiving for the gift of God’s eternal life, a meal in which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ to nourish the life of God already in us.

The Word of God takes us back almost 4,000 years to Melchizedek, who blesses Abram for winning a battle.  They celebrate with bread and wine. This biblical image, for some, prefigures the Lord’s Supper.

Paul in his letter to the Christian community at Corinth highlights the sacredness of the Lord's Supper.  This sacrificial meal reenacts the life-giving death/resurrection of Jesus, the new and everlasting covenant God made with us through Jesus by the power of the Spirit.  It is, Paul emphasizes, a truly sacred experience that should be celebrated accordingly.

This Lord’s Supper quickly developed into the structure we have now:  the liturgies of the Word and Eucharist in which we worship and praise God for Who He is and what He has done for us.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus satisfies the hungry crowd in the so-called miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  People have so many hungers.  Jesus here satisfies the crowd's physical hunger but this “wonder” prefigures the Lord's Supper where the bread and wine, become the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ, satisfy our spiritual hunger.

To understand today’s Liturgy of the Eucharist, we have to go back to Jesus’ last supper.  When Jesus sat down at that supper, He faced three challenges:

First: He had to leave us and yet He wanted to stay with us.
How did he solve this? Listen to His words: This is my body; this is my blood.
The bread and wine sacramentally become the real presence of the Risen Christ.

The second challenge: Jesus wanted to die for each of us yet He could die only once as a human being.  How did Jesus solve this? Listen to His words: do this in memory of me.
The same victim who was crucified once for us centuries ago returns every day we celebrate the Eucharist.

The third challenge: He wanted to be one with us yet this was impossible this side of heaven.
How did Jesus solve this? Listen to His words: Take and eat; take and drink. Jesus invites us to become one with Himself in communion.

What is the purpose of the bread we eat? The blood we drink? To form us not only into a more loving faith community but to empower us to reach out compassionately to the people around us.

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