The Eucharist: our experience of divinity & unity in love

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ-B, 02 June 2024
Exodus 24:3-8  ><}}}}}*>  Hebrews 9:11-15  ><}}}}}*>  Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Photo by Pranav Jain on Pexels.com

When I was a teacher-administrator of the Immaculate Conception Schoo for Boys (ICSB) in Malolos during my early years in the priesthood, I used to tell my students that in every first date they would have, always bring their girlfriend to a restaurant because what matters most is not the food and drinks but the moments we share together to know each other.

That’s the spirit behind every gathering we host with family and friends. What we really offer our guests are not food and drinks and desserts but our very selves, expressing to them our desire to be closer and intimate in our relationships as family and friends. When we tell them to have more food and drinks including sending home with tons of “Sharon Cuneta”, we actually share to them our selves as food and drinks in the same manner they nourished us with their coming. That’s Filipino hospitality so known even abroad, so appreciated by foreigners as we see in many reels and TikTok in social media.

Photo by author, 24 May 2024.

Universally speaking, every meal is more than eating and drinking but of togetherness, of deepening of our bonds as family and friends nourishing each other, becoming food and drinks for one another.

It is the same thing the happens in a more complete and perfect manner whenever we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

By giving us His very self as Body and Blood, Jesus Christ our host in this sacred meal not only nourishes our spiritual and deepest longings but most of all offers us the most intimate communion possible with others and with God. Jesus is the one who makes everything possible for us to be together, calling us to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…for I am humble and gentle of heart” (Mt.11:28-30).

 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says, ‘Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.  Make the preparations for us there.”  The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

Mark 14:12-16

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

See how Jesus personally prepared everything for their Passover meal when He arranged everything with coded messages like following “a man carrying a jar of water” because at that time, it was the woman who fetched water.  You cannot find a man carrying a jar of water unless there is something extraordinary like in our gospel today.  And that is how much God loves us, always taking the initiative to meet us, to encounter us, to be closest with us.

It is always Jesus Christ who takes the initiative to meet us and bless us like in the Holy Eucharist.  Imagine at the start of the Mass, right away He welcomes us even if we are sinners, granting us pardon even before we have asked forgiveness.  In the Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ personally like the apostles at the Last Supper this time under the signs of bread and wine as His Body and Blood, drawing us closer to Him.

That is what really happens in the sacred meal of the Holy Eucharist, a divine communion!

I tell people that after receiving Jesus in the Holy Communion, speak to Him in the most personal manner, tell Him everything whatever you want, including your cries and complaints. But, like in every meal, listen too to Jesus who has always has something so personal to tell us.

Here we find an essential element in every meal, in every conversation, in a covenant: our responsibility, our response to the offer of our host Jesus Christ. This is the meaning of Moses splashing the blood of the animal offerings to the people in sealing their covenant with God: the blood symbolized life or gift of self, our giving of ourselves to God our Lord. Jesus perfected this in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as the Letter of the Hebrews tells us:

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 9:11-12, 15

Photo by author, Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 20 March 2024.

Here we find the element and essence of sacrifice of Jesus as sacrifice of the Mass. From the Latin words sacra facere that means to make holy or sacred, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for us to make us holy like Him. In the Mass, we do not repeat His sacrifice but makes it present, actual in ourselves.

For us to receive Jesus Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we too give ourselves to Him to become His very presence in the world not only in the community gathered as His mystical Body or Church but most of all, in our union as family and friends like in Marriage. But, remember that the sacrament is not everything. We have responsibilities to nurture, deepen and protect the grace every Sacrament bestows us. What do we give? What do we sacrifice?

My dear friends, that aspect of mortification in sacrifice is accidental. We do not sacrifice or give up something merely to deny ourselves of something good. To sacrifice is not to deprive oneself of life but actually to offer oneself to a higher life. That is why we sacrifice for our loved ones and even for ourselves to achieve our dreams and aspirations. God asks us to sacrifice not because He needs us but in order to make us better, to make us holy, more equipped to keep our end in His covenant. Hence, divorce is contrary to the Eucharist, to the covenant of God.

Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2022.

There is no perfect marriage nor perfect couples but every marriage is made in heaven, blessed by God. Problems do happen indeed in many marriages or in life in general but these are of human origins – the hardness of our hearts as Jesus declared, not with the sacrament or with life itself.

Everybody has got to give, has to sacrifice. The best things in life are not free, especially a happy marriage. Or a fulfilling ministry or career or whatever. We have to give ourselves too in the same manner Jesus gave us Himself on the Cross. Problem is we no longer sacrifice in these days of instants that even that most wonderful union of man and woman called marriage is being destroyed by some in the pretext of a solution with divorce.

In celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ today, we experience the love and unity of God expressed in last week’s celebration of the Blessed Trinity, of how the three Persons in their mutual giving of self to each other outpoured upon us life and abundant blessings.

Like the three Persons bonded in love, we too can achieve that unity with God and with others through the Holy Eucharist when we too learn to sacrifice, assuring us of God’s presence among us in the ordinary instances in life. Experience God in every movement, in every step as He always takes the initiative to meet us, to be with us so we become like Him.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
You have given me Your total self
in love, Body and Blood
on the Cross and daily in 
the sacrifice of the Mass;
You never asked me to give
myself literally: You merely ask me
to be more loving and kind,
to be more forgiving and merciful,
to be more charitable;
what's more, every good deed 
I am able to do actually comes from You!
I practically just have to be Your lips,
Your hands, Your limbs, Your Body and Blood
and yet, I could not give up myself to You!
Help me Jesus
to learn to sacrifice,
to offer my body,
my total self to You
through the loving service of others.
Amen.
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