Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Remember how excited you were at your First Communion?  It really was a "big deal.”  I don’t know if it was the little white suit or white dress, the celebration afterward with all the relatives or just the fact that it was sort of a “rite of passage,” now we could do what the grownups did every Sunday.  It was a big day.  The nuns explained to us what the Eucharist was, Christ’s body and blood.  Oh it might look through our eyes like bread and wine but through the eyes of faith it was Christ, as real as if he was standing there.  And we never doubted what the nuns said!

And over the years, we just believed.  But every year, on the second Sunday after Pentecost the Church invites us to reflect on the Eucharist and hopefully expand our appreciation and understanding of this great mystery.  It is interesting that this year the Feast falls on Father’s Day because Father’s Day is about relationships, life giving relationships.  You can’t be a father without a child.  What we see in today’s 3 readings is that the Eucharist is all about life giving relationships, a relationship of love that flows in 3 stages:  From God to Christ; from Christ to us; and from us to others, to the world.  Let’s look at each of these.

In that first reading we hear Moses tell the Israelites that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  What is the “word that comes forth from the mouth of God?”  Christ.  We only have to go to the beginning of John’s Gospel to hear, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God.  All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was lifeAnd the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The Word of God, Christ, was the creating force in the world.  And from the Word came life, us.  A unique and unparalleled  relationship of love. 

Christ loved us so much he never wanted that loving relationship to end.  He wanted to be with us always, not just in a spiritual way but in a real physical way.  So when he left us, he left his risen body with us under the appearance of bread and wine.  Hidden but realNot primarily to be worshiped but so we may be what he is - divine, eternal.  He left us life, his life.  That’s what our Gospel says very clearly.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  That sentence is at the core of what we Catholics believe about the Eucharist.  Right before that the Jews said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  For the Jews this was repulsive, disgusting.  This was Jesus’ chance to say, no it was a metaphor, symbolic; you didn’t think I really meant to eat my flesh did you?  But that is not how Jesus answered them, in fact he switches and uses the Greek verb (trogein) for how an animal eats, which literally means to chew or gnaw.  Jesus makes it very clear that to have eternal life we have to literally chew his body and drink his blood.  God’s life giving relationship of love passes from God to Christ to us when we consume His body and blood.

The last step, going from us out to the world.  Communion, the sharing in the Eucharist, is not a “me and God” thing.  It is a “us” thing.  We all become one, one in Christ, united in a special unique way.  That’s what Paul tells us in that second reading.  “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”  The Eucharist is meant to form a life giving community.  Christ is life to the world and when we share in His body and blood and we become what Christ is, then we too must be life to the world.  The Eucharist is a call to move from worship to service, to take the nourishment, the embrace, the love, we have just received from God and translate it immediately and directly into loving service of others.  To take the Eucharist seriously is to begin to wash the feet of others, especially the feet of the poor.  The Eucharist invites us to replace our “me-focus” with an “other-focus.”  It calls us to be present to others, to respond to their needs, their hungers.  If we truly are what we receive then maybe we need to ask ourselves is anyone less hungry, is anyone more hopeful that tomorrow will be better than today, will be worth living, because we have touched their life? 

The Eucharist calls us to be life givers to the world.