The Eucharist - The Perfect Memorial of Divine Love
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
Jesus knew that this would be his Final Passover, his Last Paschal Meal or Supper, with his apostles in this world. For he was aware that the time had come for him to leave the world, even though his mission was apparently incomplete and unfinished, and to return to his Father. He realized that he would have to leave his followers in this world, whom he had always loved. But he was determined to demonstrate to them that, "having always loved them, he loved them to the very end", not just in time but in intensity and effectiveness (Jn 13:1). But could he do it? Then how would he do it?
Yes, he did do it, - because he also knew that his Father had given him complete power (Jn 13:1,3). This is what, St. Paul reminds the Corinthian Church, Jesus did that last night with his apostles: "He took some bread in his hands … he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this and remember me'. After the meal, Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and said, 'This is my blood, and with it God makes his new covenant with you. Drink this and remember me'" (1Cor 11:23-25). In a way this double declaration, "This is … This is … ", this double decree, "Eat … Drink … ", and this double demand, "Remember me … Remember me … " is the most pivotal one that Jesus made to his apostles.
Blessed Sacrament: This is my Body - This is my Blood (Mt 26:26,28)
It was at this Passover Meal that Jesus felt the pain of final parting, as he expressed his longing to have this Last Supper with them (Lk 22:15). On the one hand he had to go and leave them, for that was his Father's decree (Lk 22:22) - and he always did what pleased his Father (Jn 8:29); and also because that was best for them, for only then could he send them the Holy Spirit to be their help (Jn 16:7). But on the other hand he wanted to stay with them (Prov 8:31), just as the two disciples of Emmaus on their part would later on beg him, "Stay with us!" (Lk 24:29). How would he combine these two longings: to return to his Father in heaven and to still remain with his disciples on earth? Yes, he will leave them and yet he will stay with them, just as he was fully divine and yet fully human, 'God-man', for not without reason is his name, 'Emmanuel', 'God is with us', from the beginning to the end of the Gospel (Mt 1:23; 28:20).
Jesus has gone indeed, but in a real but 'mysterious' way he has not gone, he is still with us, in what is termed the Real Presence, the Blessed Sacrament. He will not ordinarily be present to our bodily or corporeal sensations of sight and hearing and touch, but to our spiritual insight of faith. His corporeal body has left us, yet leaving behind the mystery or truth of his presence. "This is my body. This is my blood" (Mt 26:26-28). It looks, feels and tastes like bread, but it is his real body, and real blood, and with it his soul and divinity. Jesus would later rebuke doubting Thomas, "Do you have faith because you have seen me?" and congratulate all future believers, "The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!" (Jn 1:29). For Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the Ark of the New Covenant, the sign of the presence, the love and the power of God (Col 2:9), to whom we make our prayer in the hymn, "Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus, To reach out and touch him, and say that I love him!"
Unbloody Sacrifice: This is: my Body given for you - my Blood poured out for you (Lk 22:19; Mk14:24)
To love is to give and perfect love is to give all, even one's life. And that is what Jesus did by dying and showed by saying "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). And therefore the martyr's death was the last and best proof of their victorious love for their master, or a mother's greatest joy is to be willing to risk her life in child birth (Jn 16: ). Christ would willingly have undergone, in the words of Hamlet, a thousand deaths to show his love for his followers. But in general, "a man can only die once" (Heb 9:27, and, "Christ having risen from the dead, dies no more" (Rom 6:9). So there is no more chance or occasion to now manifest his love by dying again for us. Jesus has died only once, a bloody death, blood-red sacrifice - but at the last supper Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples, saying, "This is my body which will be given for you" (Lk 22:19). Taking the cup he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, "This is my blood which is to poured out for many" (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24), - and he adds those eternally significant words, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19), so that when the apostles and their successors and his priests down the ages in the Mass say those same words on behalf of Jesus they brings down on the altar the same victim who died once for all on Calvary, they offer the same victim to the Father for the sins of the world, as they take into their hands a life-less bread which gives life for a moment and breathe into it the bread of life and take a cup of wine and bathe it with his blood.
Jesus does not die again but he is same Christ who died once and for all for our sins. He returns to be the victim of Calvary each day to be our victim our sacrifice, the Sacrifice of the Mass, which he himself has offered body and blood once and for all (Heb 9:26-28), to set us free from sin and death and has entrusted to his church for her to make the same offering under the species of bread and wine. Eucharist is sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which is at one single time in human history, unique and unrepeatable. In the Eucharist we announce the death of Jesus - and we proclaim his resurrection. To human eyes the life of Jesus was a failure, useless, frustrated, but in God's eyes, Jesus has accomplished the most important action of his life because he poured out his blood to save the world. Jesus was more united to his Father not when he was preaching, going round and healing but when he was immobile, nailed hands and feet. In finam dilexit (Jn 13:1), consumatum est (Jn 19:30)
Holy Communion: Take and eat - Take and drink of this (Mt 26:26,27)
Love is union perfect and unending, seeing face to face, as Moses did, a beatific vision. I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3). He wanted not to be separated from his own not only in spirit, but in person heart to heart talk. But this is only possible in heaven not on earth and you can't have heaven in earth. Really you can't. Well? Love will want naturally union. How? When he took bread in his hands he did not stop with saying, "This is my body". But he continued and said, "Take and eat" (Mt 26:26). Not simply when he took the wine did he say, "This is my blood", but "drink all of you from this of this" (Mk 26:27).
For he had said at Capernaum, "Amen, amen, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats me, he shall live because of me" (Jn 6:54-56,58). In Communion Jesus gives himself truly but hidden from our eyes. He is united and is one with us, which we don't experience corporeally. The union is for the moment but real. It is not heaven in heaven but a heaven on earth. He could not give us a perfect union but he gave the next best thing comm-union, like John resting on the heart of Jesus. If you do not eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will have no life in you (Jn 6:53). For he gave himself as bread to be eaten for the life of the world (Jn 6:51).
Living Memorial: Do this in memory of me
At the beginning of the Passion narrative John says that Jesus loved his apostles to the end (Jn 13:1) and at the conclusion he says that Jesus cried out, "Everything is done" or "mission accomplished" (Jn 19:30). For with it God has made a new covenant with man (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20) and we need to put it into effect by doing, as Jesus asks us, this as a memorial, a remembrance of him, which is not a mere emotional souvenir but a mystical but real experience (Lk 22:19; 1Cor 11:24,25). This is the mystery of our faith that we proclaim at every Mass!
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Led by the Spirit reproduced with permission from Charisindia. Copyright © 2004 Fr. Rufus Pereira. All rights reserved.