“In a Crumb of Bread the Whole Mystery is” (P. Kavanagh)
The Eucharist is the sacrament of Christ’s permanent presence with his people. In the Eucharist, Christ is present in the gathered community, in his word proclaimed, but, above all, in the bread and wine transformed into his body and blood shared among us. The importance of this sacrament is underlined by the Second Vatican Council when it states that the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian Life’ (LG 11).
Christ promised his disciples he would not leave them orphans but would send them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to strengthen and enlighten them. However, he also left them a physical memorial of his presence in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist Christ is with us under the appearance of bread and wine. He has now become our food so as to enter into the most intimate possible relationship with us. Thus the Eucharist is the supreme form of Christ’s presence with us.
During his life on earth, Jesus’ favourite way to express his love for, and his desire to be one with. people, especially for those who were rejected and unloved, was to share meals with them. Shared meals were, for the Jews, signs of acceptance and friendship. The Jews in general were careful about those with whom they shared their meals. In seeking out sinners and tax collectors, Jesus was contravening their traditions. They invited only friends or powerful people to their meals. In eating with sinners, Jesus was making friends with those who had no friends. He was showing them respect and love. He was drawing them into the family of God. He was letting them see themselves in a new light and become a new people. Instead of a people with no hope, no future, they were God’s beloved children and citizens of his Kingdom. They had never imagined it before but now they knew that the Kingdom of God was for them too.
The Eucharist is the memorial of the Last Supper. Jesus’ last act before his death on the Cross was to share a meal with those he had chosen – his Last Supper. In the course of this meal he takes bread and wine, blesses them and gives them to his disciples saying: ‘Take and eat…. Take and drink… Do this as a memorial of me.’ The meaning of Christ’s last meal is inseparable from the sacrifice of his life on the Cross. This was his supreme act of love. Love is manifested in self-sacrifice. ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn 15:13). Thus Jesus is present in the Eucharist as the One who gives his life for us.
The moment of communion in Mass, when we eat the body of Christ and drink his blood, is the moment of greatest intimacy that can exist between Christ and us – a moment to be approached with reverence and pondered in silence. However, we cannot be in communion with the Lord without being in communion with one another. Communion must never become a private devotion. This recognition of the oneness of all who partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is expressed in several ways in the Mass. The common acknowledgement that we are sinners, the common responses, the songs of praise, the Gloria, the Creed, the Aacclamation of Faith, the Great Amen, and the kiss of Peace. We act as one body because we are made one body in Christ. St. Augustine used to say to the assembled congregation as he held up the Sacred Host: ‘See what you are and become what you see: the Body of Christ’. The striking words of the poet, Patrick Kavanagh, also come to mind: ‘In a crumb of bread the whole mystery is.’
Every Eucharist ends with a Sending on Mission. ‘Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord’. We have to carry the message of the Eucharist into the world. Just as the Jesus has become our Food, giving himself completely to us, so too we must give ourselves for the sake of the world. We are challenged to live the love we have experienced. We must become sources of nourishment for the world as Christ has become a source of nourishment for us.
by Michael McCabe SMA
Click on the play button below for an alternative homily from Fr Tom Casey SMA