Body & Blood of Christ
Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord: Taken, Blessed, Broken & Given
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. In today's Gospel we come upon one of the many accounts of Jesus' multiplying food for the people. These miracles prefigure the Lord's offering His Body and Blood. The Lord performs four actions which are repeated at every Mass: He takes. He blesses. He breaks, and He gives. I'd like to relate these to our daily lives.
First of all, the Lord takes the little that is offered to Him. Five thousand men, and perhaps an equal number of women and children, need to be fed. But all the Lord is offered is five loaves and two fish. This appears insignificant next to the need. So also, what we have to offer the Lord appears to be insignificant next to the need of His people. The World Food Bank of the United Nations reports that 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to live a healthy active life. 3.1 million children under five die every year due to the effect of poor nutrition. Statistics like these are so overwhelming that we might feel that anything we do has little or no value. But Jesus did not turn his back on the five loaves and two fish. He does not laugh at our offer to care for others. He sees our determination to do whatever we can to help. He takes our simple offerings and uses these to provide for more than we could ever imagine. This doesn't just refer to the needs of the poor. We can consider the many needs of those who are in the grips of substance abuse and think that the little we can do to help a person is insignificant. Alone, perhaps, but when our help is offered to God, He will multiply our efforts in wondrous ways. Our efforts to fight for life may also seem insignificant in the face of the horrible number of abortions that take place every year, close to a million in the United States alone, and in the face of those casting abortion as a woman's right and refusing to see the human tragedy for both children and mothers. But God takes our efforts and multiplies them miraculously. Even our efforts within our families may seem insignificant when we try to chip away at nasty old Aunt Martha's or mean Uncle Fred's general hostility to the world. We may not seem to be getting anywhere, but God accepts our efforts and uses them in marvelous ways. Parents certainly experience this as they seek patience in caring for that child who is giving them a run for their money. Parents often wonder if their efforts have any effect considering the child's determination to oppose their every reasonable effort to guide them. But good parents don't give up. They do their best to make little inroads into their children's life, trusting that God will do the rest.
At every Mass, gifts of bread and wine are brought up. They seem to be an insignificant offering. But God does wonderful things with them. They become His Body and Blood. After the prayers of the faithful, when everyone is seated, we need to look at the Presentation of Gifts and pray to the Lord, “Jesus, take the little I have to offer, my five loaves and two fish, and use them to feed your people."
He takes. He blesses. Melchizedek appears in the first reading. Abram had just won a great victory over the evil King Chedorlaomer and his allies. That's when this strange figure, Melchizedek appears. He is both a king and a priest. He blesses Abram and offers God gifts of bread and wine. He thanks God for Abram's victory. This prefigures Christ's offering His Body and Blood on the Cross. It is an act of thanksgiving to God for His conquest of evil. The word Eucharist means to give
thanks. Often, when we pray we are requesting something. That is perfectly valid. But that is only one reason why we pray. We also pray offering thanks to God for what we have received. We thank God for calling us and our loved ones to Himself. We thank God for the evidence of His hand working in the world. We thank God for our sure hope in His ultimate victory over evil. We thank God for our lives. We thank God that with Him our lives have value. And so with the priest we pray “Blessed are you, Lord God of all Creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you, fruit of the earth and the work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life," and “Blessed are you, Lord God of all Creation, for through your goodness we have receive the wine we offer you, fruit of the vine and the work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink." We thank God because we have experienced His Presence, His Love in our lives.
He takes; He blesses; and He breaks. The breaking of the bread shows the power of God to be fully present in each fragment of the offering that is consecrated. When we receive communion, each one of us receives the whole of the Lord. We humbly acknowledge our dependence on God, and He gives us a full share of His Presence. No one receives more or less of the Lord than anyone else. No one is better than anyone else and therefore deserving a greater portion of the Lord. We are all on the journey to heaven. We all receive the food we need for this journey. We come up to communion united together in the Lord as one people, each person having his or her own gifts, each person receiving a full share of God's presence. God wants to be fully present to us in the Eucharist and is fully present to each of us. Why? Simply because we are His Sons and Daughters. We are loved. We come up and receive communion, not because we are so good. We come up to receive communion because we need Him so much. And He is there, with a full portion for each of us. The consecrated bread, His Body, the consecrated wine, His Blood, has been broken.
He takes. He blesses. He breaks. And He gives. The Mass is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered to the Father for us. We pray in the chaplet of Divine Mercy: “Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood, soul and divinity, of Jesus Christ our Lord, for our sins and the sins of the whole world." This is a summary of the sacrificial prayer of the Mass. Notice the prayer after the consecration. Jesus is offered to the Father for us for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus Christ is the Victor over sin and death. He gives His Victory to us. Our reception of the Eucharist is a celebration of our sharing in the Victory of the Lord. It is communion, the union of the community with Jesus Christ giving Himself to the Father.
Taken, blessed, broken and given. The gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of the Lord. Taken, blessed, broken and given, we are transformed into the living presence of the Lord.