I Cor 11: 23 – 26, Luke 9:11b – 17
The reading from First Corinthians is considered to be the oldest written account of the institution of the Eucharist. This may seem odd when you recall what the Evangelists Mark, Matthew and Luke wrote in their Gospels, but the Gospels were written after St. Paul wrote this letter. Jesus did not have a stenographer at the Last Supper to record his every word, but those who were present remembered every word. The words were prayed by the apostles who were there, and shared with the disciples. They were carefully handed on, and this is what Paul makes note of. He is not just giving them a loose rendition, but a very precise account of the actual words of Jesus instituting the Eucharist. These words were remembered and treasured. St. Paul’s introduction to this passage, “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,…” is an introduction that makes it clear to the Corinthians and us, that Paul is not creating or loosely quoting, but he is passing on the sacred and precise words of Jesus. These are the same words that have been passed down to us and are prayed as part of every Eucharistic Prayer.
The “Real Presence” of Jesus that we proclaim at each Eucharist, and adore in every Tabernacle is the wonderful gift of Jesus himself to us. With the words of Jesus the Priest prays that the bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. How does this occur? Through Transubstantiation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1376) “’Transubstantiation’ indicates that through the consecration of the bread and the wine there occurs the change of the entire substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and of the entire substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ—even though the appearances or ‘species’ of bread and wine remain.”
In most situations we receive the Body of Christ as a thin communion wafer or host. Something that is very light and fragile as it is placed in our hand or on our tongue. How could, or why would, God come to us in such a vulnerable fashion? Just look at the crucifix that is in the sanctuary of every church and see the vulnerable and fragile image of Jesus who died on the cross for us. God became one of us in all ways but sin. Flesh and bones, intellect and emotions. This is an act that raises the same questions of how and why would God come to us in such a vulnerable fashion?
During this Holy Year of Mercy we reflect on the simple answer to this; because He loves us. He loves us so much that he wanted to guarantee our redemption from sin and clear the path for us to enter into eternal life with him. The vulnerable, human and divine, Christ emptied himself to come to us, and humbled himself to die for us, out of love. It is the same love from which he gives us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. This Feast is our celebration of the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and a reminder to not take the reality of this presence for granted. The Eucharist is God humbling himself for us. It is the same Christ whose victory over death we celebrate, for His victory is our victory. Our fragility and weakness, temptations and sins, and our problems, big and small, are all minor compared to the greatness of this gift. May the Body and Blood of Christ keep us safe for eternal life.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.