THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST – Jesus: the bread of life
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
An early Christian writing says this: ‘On the Lord’s day, gather in community to break bread and give thanks. No one who has a quarrel with another person may join your gathering, not until they are reconciled. Your sacriﬁce must not make me unholy’ (The Didache).
Let us turn to Christ who nourishes us at this banquet.
Lord, in this banquet you nourish our minds with the word of God. Lord, have mercy.
In this banquet you nourish our spirits with the bread of hope. Christ, have mercy.
In this banquet you nourish our hearts with the bread of love. Lord, have mercy.
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Deuteronomy 8:2-3.14-16). The author exhorts the Jews not to forget the God who cared for them in the wilderness by giving them Manna. They are to remember, too, that they need another kind of bread, namely, God’s word.
Second Reading (1 Cor 10:16-17). In the Eucharist we all share the same bread. This means that, however many of us there are, we form one Body in Christ.
Gospel (John 6:51-58). As food and drink nourish the body, so all those who enter into communion with Christ get the nourishment of eternal life.
Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life’. Traditionally we have interpreted this in an exclusively spiritual sense, as if Jesus was talking solely about the Eucharist. For Christians the bread of the Eucharist is of course very special bread. Without it we would not have the strength to follow Christ. But human beings suffer from many kinds of hunger. There is the hunger for ordinary bread. Unless this is satisﬁed, no life is possible. There is the hunger for love. Unless this is satisﬁed, a person will always be in anguish. There is the hunger for meaning. Unless this is satisfied, a person will always be dissatisﬁed. And so on. I would like to think then that the word ‘bread’ has a wider application than the traditional one. Let us turn to the Gospel to see the various kinds of ‘bread’ Jesus offered to people, thus satisfying their many hungers. (What follows could be read as a meditation if the atmosphere is right).
To the people who followed him into the desert, and who were starving, he offered ordinary bread (abundance of it), and so satisfied their physical hunger.
To the leper whose body was falling apart, he offered the only bread that mattered to him – the bread of physical healing.
To Mary Magdalen, the public sinner, he offered the bread of forgiveness, and thus satisﬁed her hunger for acceptance.
To the lonely woman at Jacob’s well, he offered the bread of human kindness, and thus satisﬁed her hunger for love.
To the rejects and down-and-outs, by mixing with them and sharing their bread, he offered the bread of companionship, and so satisﬁed their hunger for self-worth.
To the widow of Naim who was burying her only son, and to Martha and Mary who had just buried their brother Lazarus, he offered the bread of sympathy, and he showed them that even in death we are not beyond the reach of God’s help.
With Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector who had robbed the bread from the tables of the poor, he began by inviting himself to his table. Then, having awakened within him a hunger for a better life, he got him to share his ill-gotten money with the poor.
To the thief who died at his side he offered the bread of reconciliation with God, thus bringing peace to his troubled soul.
We can see then that Christ shared himself with others in many different ways, and under many different forms, before offering himself to them as food and drink at the Last Supper.
But, surprisingly, there were some who refused his offer of bread. There was the rich young man to whom he offered the bread of discipleship, but who refused it because he was not willing to part with his riches.
There was Pilate to whom he offered the bread of truth, but who had no appetite for it because it meant putting his position at risk.
There were the people of his beloved city of Jerusalem to whom, with tears in his eyes, he offered the bread of peace, but they refused it with the result that their city was destroyed.
Then there were the scribes and Pharisees to whom he offered not once, but several times, the bread of conversion, but they refused to eat even a crumb of it.
But to everyone, rich and poor, and to each of us, Christ offers the only bread that will ultimately satisfy the hunger which the heavenly Father has placed in our hearts, namely, the bread of eternal life. He says: ‘Anyone who eats this bread will live forever’.
Who then would not want to be associated with Christ, who alone can fully satisfy all the longings and hungers of our hearts? Once we have been nourished by him, he will send us forth to nourish others.
‘Of bread that nourishes the mind and heart there is scarcely any to be found, even at the tables of the rich.’ (Thoreau).
‘Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Therefore, the poet brings his poem; the shepherd his lamb; the farmer his corn’. (Emerson).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Let us pray that Jesus, the bread of life, may nourish all the hungers of the people of God. R. Give us this day our daily bread.
For all Christians: that the celebration of this Eucharistic banquet may mould them together in a community of love. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For all government leaders: that they may spare no effort to see that all of God’s children have enough to eat. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For the lonely who are hungering for the bread of companionship; and the sick who are hungering for the bread of health. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
That through the reception of this bread from heaven we may hunger after a life of goodness and holiness. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Father, may the food we eat at this banquet satisfy all our hungers and make us a strong and united community in Christ. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. ‘
SIGN OF PEACE
St Paul said: ‘The fact that we share in the one loaf means that we form a single body’. Lord, grant that by partaking in this sacred meal, we may grow in unity; and thus we will enjoy the peace of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.
People today are crying out for recognition.
They want to be persons among persons.
They want to be noticed,
not in a showy way,
or because they have money or status,
but just because they are human beings.
Each of us is on a pilgrimage.
We are seeking to encounter others
who have the same needs as ourselves.
The greatest need of all is the need to be loved.
But we pass one another by without noticing,
without the slightest sign of recognition.
As Christians we are united by a bond so close
that St Paul called the Christian community
‘the Body of Christ’.
It is time we began to notice one another.
Each person is a brother or a sister in Christ.
Each person then must be recognised.
Each person must be given some sign of friendship,
be it only a smile or a nod of the head.
CATHERINE DE HUECK DOHERTY