Gn 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11: 23-26; Lk 11b-17
Dear brothers and sisters, this Sunday’s solemn feast is another major part of our ancient Catholic faith. We know of our Creator, the understanding of three distinct persons in the one God, the Holy Trinity. Then we believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ who came to earth to show us how much God loves us by his life, teaching, death and resurrection for our salvation.
Then we have the Father and Son sending us their Holy Spirit, to continue God’s salvation plan. Now we celebrate the special on-going presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, the “breaking of the Bread,” is critically important and little understood.
The shortest and clearest Biblical text for understanding Jesus in the “breaking of the bread,” which is the second reading this Sunday. It comes from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks (to his Father), broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes,’ again.
Note in this text and in the Mass, there are sentences of instruction before and after the words of consecration. This action of Jesus at the Last Supper is overshadowed by his arrest, trial and death. So this feast was established after the faith became legal in the Roman Empire.
Our Jewish ancestors celebrated their freedom from Egyptian bondage by a Passover meal God commanded them to celebrate the night before they left Egypt. They had been doing that for about 1300 years before Christ’s birth. The Last Supper was an anticipatory meal. Jesus became the Paschal Lamb sacrificing his own life on the cross to take away our sins. Three gospels briefly explain Jesus changing bread and wine into his own Body and Blood at the Last Supper. These are the gospel texts: St. Mark in 14:12-25; St. Matthew in 26:17-29 and in St. Luke 22:7-20. Note that all of these stories are using the word — bread.
St. John does not give a direct description of the Last Supper as do the others since they had already been written. John places his description in Chapter 6 after the multiplication of the loves and fish to feed a great crowd. In verse 32 and 33, Jesus said:
I solemnly assure you, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; it was my Father who gives you the real heavenly bread. God’s bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
The people asked for that bread always. Jesus replied, “I myself am the Bread of Life.” (v. 35)
Jesus went on to say, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (v. 41) Let me firmly assure you, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.” (v. 48)
In verse 51 Jesus said again,
I myself am the Living Bread, come down from heaven. …the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” And finally Jesus said, “For my flesh is real food, and my blood real drink. The man (person) who feeds on my flesh, and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (v. 55)
Let me finish with this quote from the (new) “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states.
The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the (other 6) sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.’ In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the Body and Blood, together, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained. This presence is called “real” – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of Christ’s presence as if they could not be “real” too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.’ (CCC,1374)
So within the Eucharistic Liturgy (Mass) we are fed in two ways. We feed on the ancient Words of God to instruct our lives today. Then we come to the table of Jesus to be fed on our best and greatest “daily bread,” as the Our Father said: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We receive divine nourishment empowering us to live our daily lives the way God directs and empowers us. Have a good Solemnity.
Blessings, in the Names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2016 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)