On Holy Thursday, during the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper with his disciples, we celebrated among other themes, the institution of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus, while he was having his last supper with his disciples, took bread, said the blessing and broke it and gave to his disciples and said to them, “this is my body”. He then took a cup filled with wine and said the blessing and gave it to his disciples and said, “take this all of you and drink, for this is the blood of the new covenant which is poured out for you”, (Mk14:22-26). He then added, “do this in memory of me”, (Lk 22:19-20).

Due to the centrality of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ in the economy of salvation, the Church has singled it out for a commemoration today. The Eucharist is the summit around which the other Sacraments revolve, because it is the sealing of the new covenant with Christ’s blood. Jesus, during his earthly ministry, performed many mighty works through which he made the kingdom of God present to the people. He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave hope to the distressed and fed the hungry, (as depicted in today’s Gospel passage). However, only once did he instruct his disciples to perform an action in memory of him, and that was after he instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.

The First Reading, (Gen 14:18-20), presents us with Melchizedek king of Salem, who was also a priest of God Most High. He brought bread and wine to Abram and blessed him. Abram then gave him a tithe of all he had. Jesus, during his last supper, would consecrate the bread and wine to become his Body and Blood as St Paul recounted in the Second Reading, (1 Cor 11:23-26).

During Mass, after the words of consecration have been said by the Priest, we believe that transubstantiation has taken place through the power of the Holy Spirit and the institution narrative. That is, the bread and wine have been transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and hence, are now objects of our adoration because of the presence of Christ in them.

The Solemnity we are celebrating today, also includes a thanksgiving to God for providing us with physical food and drink which are essential for healthy living. In today’s Gospel, Jesus fed the crowd with bread and fish. Hence there is a link between the physical food that nourishes our body and the spiritual food that we receive in the Holy Eucharist that nourishes our soul. There is a deep connection between the Eucharist and the needy people in our society. Part of the history of taking up collections at Mass was to provide for the needy people in our society. Hence it is not a coincidence but an act of destiny that we are taking up today the St Vincent de Paul Winter Appeal for the needy people in our society.  

During the Eucharistic celebration, before the Eucharistic prayer is said, the Priest offers the bread saying, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life”, (Roman Missal). He then offers the wine saying, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink”, (Roman Missal).

The two citations above, underscore the importance of thanking God for the natural foods and drinks that he has provided for us, for without wheat or corn or rice or grapes, we will not have the bread and wine to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Offering prayer for the bread, acknowledges that the bread is both the fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it then pleads that God may transform it into the bread of life. The Offering prayer for the wine acknowledges that the wine is both fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it then asks that God may transform it into spiritual drink for our nourishment. The two Offering prayers acknowledge God as God of creation who is benevolent to us.

The sacrifice of Jesus on the altar during Eucharistic celebration, re-enacts Jesus’ sacrificial offering on the Cross except that on the altar, he is not physically bleeding as on the Cross. The Eucharistic sacrifice on the altar also includes us because the water mingled with the wine represents humanity, while the wine represents Christ.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, let us approach the Table of the Lord with joy and reverence, for it is Christ the saviour of the world who has invited us to a feast and it is him that we partake of in the Eucharist. As we joyfully and reverently approach the Table of the Lord, let us join Dan Shute in singing Table of Plenty:

1. Come to the feast of heaven and earth! Come to the table of plenty!
God will provide for all that we need, here at the table of plenty.
 
2. O come and eat without money; come to drink without price.
My feast of gladness will feed your spirit, with faith and fullness of life.

Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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