Sunday, June 3, 2018

Food for the journey

During these first two weeks that follow the celebration of Pentecost, we celebrate two truths that are central to our faith.  Last weekend, we focused on the Trinity and this weekend we turn our attention to the most precious gift that our God has given us: his own Body and Blood.

Today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, reminds us that God has made covenants with his beloved people since the time of Abraham and Moses.  The Israelite people, our ancestors in faith, were instructed in the ways of God (cf Ex 24:3), just as we are instructed from week to week so that we can grow in his wisdom.  It was the custom of the time to offer burnt offerings and sacrifices to God as a sign of our worship (cf Ex 24:5) and the blood taken from the animals who were sacrificed would permanently mark the altars and the people as a pledge of their willingness to be faithful to the established covenants (cf Ex 24:6, 8).

Remembering this chapter in our history, we still refer to the elements of the sacrifice we witness upon this altar as the Body and Blood of Christ.  We believe that through the invocation of the Spirit and the words of consecration, simple gifts of bread and wine are transformed permanently into divine gifts of Christ’s Body and Blood.  Every time that we gather to celebrate this sacred meal, we are participating in the meal that he shared with the apostles in the Upper Room, when he took a loaf of bread ... blessed it, broke it and gave it to them, saying to them: take, this is my Body (Mk 14:22).  The Blood of the sacrifice that Moses spoke of is also present, but now it is present in the form of wine that is transformed when the priest repeats the words Jesus spoke to his disciples: This is my Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many (Mk 14:24).

Once bread and wine are consecrated in this way, we believe that they are no longer mere earthly elements, but rather the gifts of our God given to nourish the hearts and souls of his beloved children.  We do not need to gorge ourselves on this special food, as we might at a Christmas or Thanksgiving banquet.  Instead, just a little taste is enough to fill us with the divine food that we require for our journey in faith.  In an age when so many are obsessed with eating healthily, receiving this special food is one way that we can eat for the sake of spiritual health.

Having been strengthened by this nourishment, and with the assurance that we are never alone, but rather that Christ who offered himself without blemish (Heb 9:14) is present with us at every step of this journey, we are sent out into the world week after week so that we can put our faith into action.  Each day, Jesus uses our hands to reach out and to touch the hearts of those who are in need.  He uses our feet to walk in this world alongside those who are lonely, disheartened and in need of encouragement.  Our ears he uses to listen attentively to the pleas of those who have no one else to listen as they share the adventures and challenges they face.  Nourished with his Body and Blood, Christ looks compassionately through our eyes upon those who are distanced and alone, and he uses our hearts to communicate his deep abiding love.

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