“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying: ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” [Luke 22:19] With these words, Jesus gave us his Body and Blood. This is real food, as necessary for our spiritual growth as our every-day food is essential for our physical growth. Jesus often shared food with his disciples to nourish them on their faith journeys, and now after his last meal with them, he offered himself to them as life-giving food. Catherine of Siena, in her mystical writings speaks of God who says: “So you see, I am their table, my Son is their food, and the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from me the Father and from the Son, waits on them.”
In Jesus’ world, meals always signified peace, trust, and acceptance. Usually such meals were shared with family and close friends. The very act of breaking bread with another person, established a sacred bond that those who shared the meal promised to honor and protect. Such meals were never shared with outcasts or public sinners, yet Jesus often shared meals with such people so that through his meal sharing, sinners might achieve a new level of holiness and intimacy with him.
The Gospel story of the loaves and fish heard today is recorded six times by all four evangelists, the only miracle story found in all four gospels. This miracle account recalls the abundance we are freely given when Jesus invites us to his Table. We not only eat the bread and drink the cup, but we are asked to become what we consume! As theologian Edward Schillebeeckx stated: “We who receive this sacrament become it, the sacrament of the world at large. When we embrace the Christian vocation to be sacrament--to be the medium of God’s presence, grace and compassion among us, then this solemn meal reaches the fullness of its meaning.”
However, Schillebeeckx also issues this warning, “As long as we honor only the sacred elements on the Table, we render the vitality of this event to an inert expression of piety.” The privilege of being an invited guest at the Lord’s Table requires that we become what we eat and bring that holiness into our hungry world. Jesus gave his food to all, to detractors as well as disciples, to both believers and to doubters, and asks us to bring ourselves as food to our world. Jesus’ food tells us that God is good; that his love is everlasting, and even more importantly, that he remains forever present to us. Our response is to flood our neighborhoods, work places and homes with Christ re-making our secular world sacred.
Each time we approach the Table, we come empty and hungry. Each time we leave the Table, we leave full---full of bread, full of life, and full of divine presence. Our Eucharist only wets our appetite and leaves us hungering for more---more God, more grace, more unity, more justice, and more peace. This hunger compels us to work with renewed zeal to address the hunger in others. “Just as Jesus asked the twelve apostles to distribute the bread and fish, he asks us to distribute ourselves as well as the goods of the earth so that all may be fed, housed, clothed and rescued from chaos into peace.” [Angie O’Gorman, Celebration, May, 2016] Jesus told his disciples and today he is telling us, “Give them some food yourselves.” That request is crystal clear!