Today the Church in the United States commemorates with great care and solemnity, the gift of the life and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, given to us in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
The Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, what we know as the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Communion, is not for us Christians merely a symbol of Christ, or an expression of community fellowship, or a metaphor, but it is the life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself. God in Christ makes himself food and drink, so that, taking him into our bodies as nourishment, we can become like him. Adoring and Receiving the Blessed Sacrament we adore and receive Christ.
This is all very mysterious and mystical, and what else could it be? All actions of the God to reveal himself to us are mysterious and mystical, the breakthrough of God into this world is always confounding and never fits easily into worldly categories of experience and understanding.
The Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, is the breakthrough of God’s life and presence into our lives and into this world. It might seem easier and safer for us to construe the mystery and mysticism of Holy Communion into a symbol or a metaphor, but this construal, is not what the Blessed Sacrament really and truly is.
We don’t make the Eucharist what it really and truly is, God makes the Eucharist what it really and truly is- and what God in Christ makes the Eucharist is the gift of his very life.
The scriptures for today are all evocations of the mystery and mysticism of the Blessed Sacrament.
The first scripture, an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Genesis, recalls the ancient patriarch’s Abraham’s encounter with the priest and king Melchizedek, who offers bread and wine to God as an affirmation of his covenant, that is, his relationship with Abraham. In response to the bread and wine offered by Melchizedek, Abraham makes his own offering “a tenth of his possessions”.
The story of this encounter and offering is presented to as a foreshadowing of the Blessed Sacrament we receive from the priest and king Jesus Christ. The Blessed Sacrament establishes us in relationship with God in Christ and our response to the offering of the priest and king Jesus Christ is that we offer him our very lives.
The second scripture is an excerpt from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which contains one of the earliest descriptions of the mystery of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is not an invention of the Church, but a reality that Christ’s first disciples received from him. It is Christ who declares the Eucharist to be his Body and his Blood and it is Christ who makes the Eucharist the sacrifice of his new worship.
The Eucharist is the worship that God wants for it is the worship that God in Christ gives.
We might desire a different kind of worship and even invent forms of worship to satisfy our desires and needs. These invented forms of worship might even appear to us to be more appealing and entertaining than the worship God in Christ gives to us, but they are not what God wants and they will never give to us what the worship that is faithful to Christ gives. The worship we create may provide us with ideas and feelings and experiences that we associate with God. The worship of the Mass is different.
We do not receive in Christ’s worship, the Eucharist, merely an idea or feeling or experience, but Christ himself. No form of worship, except the form of worship Christ gives to us, can give us the life and presence of Christ himself.
The meaning of our scripture from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians should be taken as this: From the time of the Apostles, the Church has offered the worship that we know as the Mass. It is not just a matter of human custom, but fidelity to Christ, and receiving from Christ, the gift that he wants to give. This gift is his life and his presence, given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
Finally, the Gospel of Luke testifies to the great miracle, a display of Christ’s divine power. He feeds a vast crowd with only a few morsels of food.
There is no natural explanation to what is described in this account from Luke’s Gospel. The people cannot give to one another what they do not have. The disciples cannot give to the people what they do not possess. There is nothing to share, for there is nothing at all to share.
God in Christ provides for the people what they cannot provide for themselves. They can only eat and be satisfied because Christ gives them food that he through his divine power creates.
This miracle foreshadows or anticipates the gift of the Blessed Sacrament, heavenly food that God in Christ gives to us, a food we cannot create or provide for ourselves. Christ accomplishes a miracle to suggest to his followers an even greater revelation that is to come- the gift of his life and presence, given to his disciples as food and drink, given to us as a meal, given to us as the Blessed Sacrament.
A greater gift than the food that fed the multitude is the food that Christ makes of his Body and Blood. Greater than the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is the revelation of the Eucharistic mystery.
Throughout the Church’s year of worship, there are reminders to us of what we believe. Knowing what we believe, we know who we are as disciples of the Lord Jesus. Knowing who we are as disciples of the Lord Jesus we can also know what God in Christ wants us to do.
If we forget what we believe, we will inevitably forget what Christ wants us to do, and then we will no longer be Christ’s disciples.
The stakes are high when we forget what we believe and what we are supposed to do.
For this reason, the Church reminds us, and today the Church reminds us yet again what we believe the Blessed Sacrament really and truly is- the life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself.
We remember what we believe about the Body and Blood of Christ so that we might be made worthy to receive what we believe.