Sunday, May 25, 2008


1. What is the Eucharist?

Our belief in the Body and Blood of Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament gets its name Eucharist from the Greek word for Thanksgiving: eucharistein. Another word that might be familiar is connected to this is: eulogein, from which we get “eulogy”. This is derived from the Jewish notion of remembrance or recollection. This was not a mere cognitive operation of the brain. This was an actual reliving of the major event in the Jewish collective memory: The Passover. Just as the Jewish people re-lived – and still re-live – their miraculous emancipation from slavery in Egypt, we as Catholic Christians also relive our manumission from the slavery of sin in the self-offering of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

2. Where does the Eucharist come from

a. Old Testament Figures

There are several figures of the Eucharist, this sacred meal that we share, in the Old Testament:

First, the sons of Adam and Eve offered the fruits of their labors to God Almighty. Abel was the keeper of the flocks and offered to God the first pick of his flock, while his brother Cain, a tiller of the soil did not.

Next, when Abraham returned from the destruction of God’s enemies, the King of Salem (later known as Jerusalem), Melchizedek, offered him bread and wine for his refreshment.

These two figures of the Eucharist are mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer that you will hear later: We pray to God to “Accept these gifts as once you accepted the gift of your servant Abel.” Abel’s gift was the first fruits – in other words, the best fruits, the pick of his flock. Then we pray, “… and the bread and wine offered by your priest, Melchizedek,” who offered refreshment to Abraham, our Father in Faith.

Yet, the most significant figure of the Eucharist in the Old Testament was the Exodus of the people Israel from slavery in Egypt. God told Moses to have each family offer one lamb as a sacrifice, to roast it and spread its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses as a sign to the Angel of Death, that he might pass over their houses on the way to slaying all the firs born in Egypt. The blood of the lamb was what saved the lives of their first born sons. It is the body and blood of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who saves our lives from the slavery of sin. The Jewish people still ritually relive that event of freedom from slavery, and in Jesus’ time, made it their practice to slaughter the lambs for the Passover at three o’clock on the afternoon before the Sabbath was to begin. So it is no accident or coincidence that Jesus breathed His last that afternoon of His Passion at three o’clock.

Jesus is our Passover Lamb. We pray as the host is broken on the altar: “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have Mercy on us.” The priest holds up the newly consecrated Body of Christ and declares: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

3. The Promise of Christ

Jesus Christ, at the end of Matthew’s gospel, promises His disciples (and us) that He will be with us always until the end of the age. In His sacred presence in this Sacrament, Jesus has kept His promise. We must see that promise fulfilled through the eyes of faith. We may see ordinary bread and wine with our eyes, we may taste mere bread and wine. But, faith in Jesus Christ tells us that this is the Body and Blood of our Savior. We take Jesus at His word: “This is My Body, given up for you!”

4. How the Church responds

The great care and reverence that the Church gives toward the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus, God made man for us, gives us a clue as to how we should respond to the gift that Christ gives us in His Body and Blood. The Church preserves the Blessed Sacrament in a Tabernacle so that the sick and infirmed may also partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus. We genuflect as a sign of our reverence for the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

5. Why we need the Eucharist

Jesus Himself said, “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have life within you . . . 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” (John 6:53, 57). So we need to receive our sustenance from Jesus our Savior in order to survive in Spirit and truth.

As we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are given the grace and the strength to go forth into the world in which we live and work and be Christ for others. It does us no good to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and act out in the world as if nothing were any different. We must all consider this sacred meal a life-changing experience, and we partake of this life-changing experience every week. Why? Because we NEED it, we desperately need the nourishment that Jesus Christ freely gives us in order to live in holiness of life.

May God give us the wisdom to know and understand Who we are receiving when we receive the Eucharist and thank God for the privilege.

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