June 11, 2023
“The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.”
“For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.”
Too often, I think, we focus on Jesus’s body and blood in the Eucharist as objects, as things. We try to understand how, under the appearance of bread and wine, Jesus is present body, blood, soul, and divinity. Or we get focused on the moment when these things change from bread and wine into body and blood. Though a great mystery, Jesus’s body and blood are not static. Jesus does not come to be just a thing on an altar or just an object to be honored. As we contemplate the mystery of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, there are two important aspects to more fully grasp Jesus’s real presence in the Eucharist.
First, we understand the Eucharist to be a memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus, of his being “broken” for us in his death. His atoning death, as an act of love for us, gives us life, freedom, and salvation. God raises Jesus from the dead. The Paschal Mystery, death and resurrection, are remembered in a way that makes them present again on our altar under the appearance of bread and wine. We are invited to participate now in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are invited to die with him and rise with him. Our participation now in a past saving act of God, through our participation in his body and blood, is manifest when we die to ourselves, when we sacrifice, when we become selfless, and when we love. St. Augustine famously said, “Behold what you are and become what you receive.” The Paschal Mystery is not simply a past event that we benefit from, but a participation in a dynamic and ongoing event of the life of God and our very lives. It is death and resurrection made present for us and in us. It is not static. It’s not just a thing.
Second, the Eucharist is also communal. It is communion, so it is relational. Our participation in the one bread and one cup, in Jesus’s body and blood, make us one with God and one with each other. It is not just about my belief, my opinion, my preference, or my idea. It’s also not just about my actions, my service, my devotion, or merit. It’s not about me. It is God’s action and our response. We are one body, Christ’s body made one in him. We, though many, are one body because of our participation in his body and blood. He remains in us and we in him. It is about all of us. Again, We behold what we are and become what we receive.
Even in the objects of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, God is dynamically at work through his saving action for us on the cross and in the resurrection and he forms us in unity as his body. In his body and blood, God is alive and at work. We receive, we worship, a living person, the Son of the Father, the Word made flesh, the Bread come down from heaven. Become what you receive. Behold what you are.