Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture
Mt. St. Mary's Seminary
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Is Jesus in the Eucharist the center of your life?
We divide time into BC and AD; BC before Christ and AD, Anno Domini - in the year of Our Lord - since the birth of Jesus. This is our way of showing that Jesus is the center of history, Jesus is the most important event in history. Everything in history pales into insignificance compared to Jesus. It is the same in our lives. Jesus is or should be the center of our lives. Jesus is or should be the center of our week. Because Jesus is the center of our lives we come here to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday and afterwards we go in peace to love and serve the Lord whom we encountered here in the Eucharist.
Just as we divide time into BC and AD, before Christ and after his birth, the Sacred Scriptures do the same and so we have the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament from time to time we get glimpses and hints of Jesus who is to come, in events or people who are pointing the way to Jesus. In the first reading today (Gen 14:18-20), the priest Melchizedek is one of those people in the Old Testament giving us a glimpse and hint of Jesus to come. Melchizedek was a priest and Jesus is the High Priest of the New Testament which the response to our Psalm today prophesied, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek brought bread and wine which is a foretaste of the Eucharist that Jesus would give. Melchizedek, in his role as priest, pronounced a blessing on Abram who gave him a tithe. There are other hints and glimpses of the Eucharist in the Old Testament; the manna which the Israelites received in the desert (Ex 16), and the food that sustained the prophet Elijah for forty days and nights until he reached Mount Horeb/Sinai (1 Kings 19).
In the Gospel today (Luke 9:11-17) Jesus performed a miracle by feeding thousands from only five loaves and two fish. This miracle is preparing for the greatest New Testament miracle, the Eucharist. Jesus performed the same four actions over the bread and fish when he multiplied them as he would do later over the bread during the Last Supper;
1.) he took the bread and fish,
2.) said the blessing over them,
3.) broke them, and
4.) gave them to his disciples.
The second reading (1 Cor 11:23-26) is a description of the Last Supper that is very precious to us because it is the oldest account of the Last Supper in the Scriptures, written even before the Gospels. Paul wrote this letter sometime during the 2½ years he spent preaching in Ephesus 54-57 AD. It is the earliest description of the Last Supper in the New Testament. Jesus said, “This is my body…” He did not say, “This is a symbol of my body” or “This represents my body” but Jesus said, “This is my body.” Transubstantiation is the name we give to the bread and wine changing into the body and blood of Jesus while maintaining the appearance of bread and wine. Trans – substance, the substance is transformed while maintaining its external appearance of bread and wine, transubstantiation.
Just as Jesus is the center of time, BC and AD, our celebration of Corpus Christi today reminds us to keep Jesus in the Eucharist at the center of our lives. Jesus desires that we live each day in intimate union with him, he is not a stranger to meet for just one hour every Sunday. Jesus is our best friend, or as some young children say, “our bestest friend.” Is Jesus your best friend? Can you live your entire day with Jesus and also spend special time in prayer with Jesus in the Eucharist. Just as Jesus is the center of time, and the center of our lives, I very much like when the Tabernacle is the focal point of the church. It has happened on a few occasions when visiting churches in Europe and in this country that I had to spend a few minutes wandering around the church to find the tabernacle. I was like Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday morning saying, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and I don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:13) Eventually I found the tabernacle and Jesus; isn’t it obvious that since we go to church to meet Jesus in a special way Jesus should be the focal point of the church. The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum §130 states,
According to the structure of each church building and in accordance with legitimate local customs, the Most Holy Sacrament is to be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is noble, prominent, readily visible, and adorned in a dignified manner…We want to live our entire day with Jesus because he is our best friend. He suffered his passion and death for us. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist here we are reminded of the great love of Jesus for us by his giving himself for us in his passion and death. Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote,
As if the better to remind us of His passion in the Sacrifice of the Mass, He chose bread and wine, both of which become what they are through a kind of Calvary. Wheat becomes bread and grapes become wine through a veritable passion of the grist-mill and the wine-press.”(Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Life of All Living (Doubleday Image Book 111-112.)
Just as the wheat is beaten and crushed to become flour for bread, Jesus’ body was scourged and crucified. Just as the juice flows from the grape to make wine, Jesus’ blood flowed. The bread and wine which we offer in sacrifice during every Mass and are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus in the transubstantiation remind us of the passion and death of Jesus. Truly every Mass reminds us of Jesus’ total giving of himself for us.
Jesus is the center of time. There are many hints in the Old Testament that Jesus would come. In every Mass the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus for us, and how bread and wine are formed reminds us of Jesus’ passion and death. The Eucharist shows us Jesus’ love for us. Jesus is indeed our best friend. Jesus is the center of time. Is he also the center of your day? Do you live each day with Jesus your best friend?
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Reprinted with permission from www.frtommylane.com.