It is ironic in a sense that one of the greater divides between Catholic and Protestant is over the issue of the Eucharist. Here, Catholics are most literal, taking the “institution of the Eucharist” to be the actual eating of the blood and flesh of Christ, while most Protestants see it as a symbolic act of remembrance.
To be honest, the Protestants are closer to the mark exegetically. While Matthew relates the story of the Last Supper in a “bread = body” fashion, Luke and Paul frame it as a “remembrance”. Quite frankly it should not matter at all, since if we wish to talk about the mystery of Christ’s presence to us as Christians, the how is singularly not important.
What is important is the stage being set. The table was a place where differences were set aside, weapons left at the door, where people were in a sense forced to confront each others as equals–nourishing the body.
The history of table hospitality in the Middle East is well-known. In such a harsh environment, even enemies broke bread together as a means of survival. It was not all equality of course, there were heads of the tables often, and women and children were separated, eating after the men were through. Food was life at its most basic, and Jesus spared no opportunity to connect food and eating with teaching.
When people are chewing, they can listen.
I see the Eucharist as a time when for a few moments my thoughts are utterly aligned with my God. I choose to believe that God comes to me in some precious way through the bread and wine. I do not examine that process for the process doesn’t actually matter. Is this not why we pause, (those of us who do) at the beginning of a meal to silently or otherwise, give praise to God for what we are about to consume? We have internalized the importance of meal, of table fellowship, even if that fellowship only includes ourselves and the Lord.
When Jesus has been teaching and the disciples urge him to send people away to find something to eat, he teaches an important lesson: give them some food yourselves. In this salient sentence, Jesus draws us together as community, making us each responsible for all, including feeding each other.
For in the feeding of others, we feed ourselves.
When the disciples answer Jesus’ directive, they say what we are wont to say: “Five loaves and two fishes are all we have.”
We rebel. We start by turning inward, counting what we have, and finding we don’t have enough to share. We look about as dumb animals. What to do now?
Do with what you have! Amazing things happen when you just start doing, without fretting about how little you have.
Every revolution starts with the desire of one person to take one step in a new direction.
One in five humans is hungry in the world. One in five children in this country doesn’t get enough to eat. Our food banks are stretched to their limits every week. Men and women sit along our roadsides, along our city streets, hungry. Twenty-five percent of our veterans are homeless, living on the streets, unable to work and dependent upon soup kitchens, garbage receptacles, and the largess of passerby’s.
Food is life. All our actions regarding food can be and should be a Eucharistic event for us. The gardening we so love, the shopping and choosing of just the right melon, the careful preparation, presentation, all these are Eucharistic moments. We can treat these times as Holy deliberately and prayerfully, opening our hearts and minds to God’s presence. Food can continue to teach us.
With each can of soup, we realize that it would feed another. Is it so much to ask that we save aside a few cans a week and once a month deliver them to a pantry? Is it too much to send a monthly check of a few dollars to your local mission or shelter?
And if I may ask you, please, please, when you do such things, hold them in your own heart. Your God knows, and that is all that need know. Only the Pharisees find the need to tell others of their giving. For no matter how much you give, others give more, and others are prevented from giving as much only because they have even less than you claim to have. You shame them, and yourself when you brag of your offerings.
Give them some food yourselves.
- “Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ” (Corpus Christi), by Fr. Tasang (santuariodesanantonio.wordpress.com)
- Jesus Christ Our Daily Food: Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (frbonnie.wordpress.com)
- Feast of Corpus Christi: A call to become Eucharistic people (junjunfaithbook.com)
- Pope Francis Homily for Corpus Christi (devoutlycatholic.wordpress.com)