Can any words truly describe this act!? Probably not, but we can't be faulted for trying!
Although this painting -not Da Vinci's I'm told, but Juan de Juanes- portrays deep devotion from the men around Jesus, one can imagine quite a few frowning faces when Jesus spoke his famous words we repeat in EVERY single Mass: " take this bread...this is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." These words as we've seen in the previous blog, are subject to great controversy. Many would prefer to focus on this act as one of 'remembrance' only. But even if it were just that to us, we'd still be stuck with one powerful question: HOW do we remember? How is our Memory of Jesus kept close the original force that he was?
For Catholics, along with the Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans and some others, the question is phrased differently (not necessarily in a better way..just..differently!) : How do we live the Eucharist? We receive it on a weekly (or daily!) basis, but how do we let it impact us?
With both questions, it seems to be at the same time a very personal question, but also a communal one. Interestingly enough, the answer is also personal, and communal. We personally must ALLOW the Eucharist to shape our lives, and affect how we relate to other people. It's hard, but necessary work. It's how we will actively remember this new covenant between us and God made through the presence of Jesus among us, and through his sacrifice. But the way we are all impacted by this act throws a new light on our potential that we have as a community. If we all recognize how changed we have been individually, collectively, we will FEEL that call to combine our abilities and strengths to serve the Lord more effectively, and to live out his Justice more fruitfully through community service and volunteering. In other words,rather than being something that's forced, something that's inauthentic, something we do to feel good about ourselves, our volunteering will be an act of faith and love, and a sign of our commitment to the well being of others. It is in short, an act of solidarity, something Pope Francis mentioned in his Sunday homily, an act that is rooted not in the piety in the individual, but in the sense of unity in the community.
This is why the feeding of the 5000 is so important for the feast of this solemnity. Jesus reminds us that we are not fed by food alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God -Mat 4:4, Deut 8:3- but in today's account, the masses receive both spiritual nourishment, and physical one. Both are crucial to this story, but it's the physical one that highlights Jesus great love for humanity. As Pope Francis says, in the end, it's a story of how community comes together to feed others. The apostles, despite their resistance, do contribute to this meal by giving all they have to feed the masses. This is a great metaphor for how our worship, our prayers, our spiritual nourishment should also take place as a community, not just as individuals.
And this a concern for us. There's way too much individualism among Christians.People are focused on their own spirituality, their own salvation, and they forget the importance of serving others, and taking a more active role in their community of faith. Despite this,we are largely communitarian. We value the faith and presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ a lot. We are nourished by them, and we grow because of them, they are crucial to our faith journey. Still, as my imaginary probro -protestant brother!- Pete would say, our journey of faith is a personal one too. For example, in justifying his belief that he doesn't need confession, he would say " God is in me...I'm made in his image. so why shouldn't I be able to approach God on my own, with my sins? Why do I need a priest for that?"
In a way, he's right. At the same time, this deeply individualistic view is not helpful for community building. The whole point of confession, of many of our sacraments, is that it's not just your faith. It's the faith of the whole community. By sharing your sins with another, not only are you placing your soul in his trust, but your opening yourself up, making yourself vulnerable, rather than bearing your own cross alone. It's a powerful and humbling gesture that I feel is integral to building a community of faith, and to connecting ourselves to the healing presence of Christ in the Eucharist. For it's in our vulnerability that we understand our need for Jesus and for the intercession of Mary and the Saints, but also for the support of our community as we struggle through life. This is why the Church united in adoration as it was on Sunday is so symbolic. We pray and give glory to God together. We share life together, and we walk in Christ together. This unity is the grace which we must express gratitude for today. It is part of this idea of Solidarity that we can simply not turn our backs on.
Genesis 14: 18 - 20
|18||And Mel-chiz'edek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.|
|19||And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth;|
|20||and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"|
Psalms 110: 1 - 4
1The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool."2The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes!3Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning like dew your youth will come to you.4The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz'edek."
|1 Corinthians 11: 23 - 26|
|23||For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,|
|24||and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."|
|25||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."|
|26||For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.|
Luke 9: 11 - 17
11When the crowds learned it, they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing.12Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place."13But he said to them, "You give them something to eat." They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people."14For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, "Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each."15And they did so, and made them all sit down.16And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.17And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces.