|Dali's Last Supper|
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Eucharist, a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving,” thanksgiving for the gift of salvation.
The meal table for many is the center of family life. In our global Catholic family, the altar or table of the Lord is the center of our faith community.
In some cultures in antiquity, there was a sense of the sacred around the family meal. Life was sacred, and that which nourished life was, therefore, holy as well. People remembered how God had entered their lives and blessed them. Within the simple ritualistic act of eating and drinking, these families celebrated the mysteries of life.
There are numerous opportunities in our lives for such special and sacred meals: birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, graduations and great holiday feasts like Christmas and Thanksgiving. The occasions are as numerous as our imaginations will allow.
The family table is the place where people often gather in love and friendship and conversation; it stand at the center of home. So too the altar or table of the Lord stands at the center of church.
On this feast of Corpus Christi, the word of God focuses on three historical moments: the 13th century before the Christian era, the first decade of our Christian era, and 2017. Each is an exodus, a going out.
The word takes us back to the wanderings of the Hebrews in the wilderness after their escape from their oppressors. Moses proclaims that we need God’s word to satisfy our spiritual hunger as much as we need food to satisfy our physical hunger.
Paul in his letter to the Christian community at Corinth in Greece speaks about the presence of the Risen Christ not only in the bread we break but also in one another. We are all one human family. And the Eucharist symbolizes our oneness.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that he is the bread of life. And whoever eats this bread, has eternal life. This “I am” saying is one of the seven “I am” sayings in the Gospel of John that alludes to divinity of Jesus.
In another Johannine passage Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and says: As I have done, so you must do. The purpose of the Eucharist is to form us into a vibrant faith community of disciples. Yes, the Eucharist is the real presence of the living Christ, sacramentally and mystically. But it is an empty gesture unless we go out from the table of the Lord to feed the hungry. We are called to go from church to community to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters, to be present to others, where they are, in ways that respond to their needs. Then we will experience our own exodus or going out.