A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
B. Reflection & Dialogue: The Message of the Eucharist Today
A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings
First Reading (Genesis 14:18-20). The priest Melchizedek brought out bread and wine. The original setting of this brief text in a lengthy chapter in the book of Genesis speaks of the invasion of kings from the East who made war with kings the Western Dead Sea area, took spoils and then departed, also taking Lot, Abraham’s brother and his goods. Abraham is uncharacteristically presented not as a quiet semi-nomad but as a military hero. With chosen men he pursues the Eastern kings, brought back the goods, together with Lot and his property. On reaching Salem (probably Jerusalem is intended) Melchizedek, priest of the Canaanite God Most High, a god Abraham identifies by the God he himself served (14:22) brought out bread and wine. Abraham (the biblical text simply says “he”) gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. Melchizedek in this original context is a mysterious figure. His person will later in the Bible be interpreted as referring to the Messiah (Ps 109:4) read as today’s responsorial psalm, and at length of Christ in Hebrews 7:1-17). He himself will be a figure of Christ the great High Priest and his gifts of bread and wine figures of the Eucharist.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 109). Your are a priest for ever, a priest like Melchizedek of old,
Second Reading (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death. The Last Supper, with the institution of the Eucharist, took place in 30 or 33 AD. Brief, even semi-creedal, accounts of the institution appear to have been put together at an early age. Paul, writing about 57 AD, possibly at Passover, gives us one of these which he says he himself has learned as going back to Christ himself (“received from the Lord”) and is just passing on to his readers. He got this tradition possibly from the Church in Jerusalem at his first visit there (possibly 36 AD), or later (49 AD) at Antioch. It is the oldest written account of the institution we have, older than that of Mark, the earliest Gospel, written about 70 AD. It contains the same elements as the other Gospel accounts (but is nearest that of Luke). The bread, which is his body, is “for you”, for those who receive his Body in the Eucharist for all time. It is the body crucified for salvation on Calvary. Reception of his body is to be a “memorial”, an event or rite that will call to mind (to participants, believers, possibly even to God the Father) the saving significance of his death, The “cup” is called the cup of the New Testament in Christ’s blood. The old covenant at Sinai was also confirmed with blood (Exodus 24:8). Each celebration of the Eucharist proclaims the Lord’s death (and its manifold significance) until the end of time.
Gospel (Luke 9:11-17). They all ate as much as they wanted. Since this year the institution narrative is given in the second reading (one close in part to Luke’s account), the lectionary has chosen a related text for its Gospel reading. The Last Supper was but the last of many meals which Jesus has with his own, with the marginalized and with others. All these remained significant. A central hope in Judaism was the fulfilment of a prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 25:6-8) of a divine banquet in the days to come “on this mountain”. The setting of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves the account of the crowds thronging to Jesus, who makes them welcome, talked to them about the kingdom of God and cured those in need of healing. Interest then shifts to the material: how feed this crowd of five thousand. The apostles bring the question to Jesus’ attention, and suggest sending the crowd home. For Jesus, feeding the hungry is also part of the message of the kingdom of God. He works this well-know miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Luke sees more in this that just a mere miracle. For him it leads to a further recognition by the Apostles of Jesus special mission as Messiah of God (Luke 9:18-22). By a skilful use of words and imagery Luke suggests a close link between the multiplication and the institution of the Eucharist. He has Jesus use the same actions and words over the loaves and fish to be multiplied. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven, said the blessing over them and handed them to the disciple for distribution.
After each consecration we are asked to proclaim the mystery of faith, the significance of the Eucharist. Christ has himself has asked us to celebrate the Eucharist as a memorial of himself, a reminder of what his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, stand for. The Eucharist proclaims Jesus’ concern for the crowds, for the hungry, the marginalized and many other things besides,
B. The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: The Message of the Eucharist Today
The Eucharist has been at the source and centre of Christianity down through the ages, and still remains so. Reflection on it brings to mind many demands of Christian living, as many as belief in the living Christ himself does. Instituted at the Last Supper, the last of his meals with followers, it recalls the many meals during his life and the significance of these, eating with the marginalized and the outcast. In Mark’s gospel, after the multiplications of the loaves, in a journey across the Sea of Galilee the evangelist notes that the apostles had forgotten to bring bread with them, having only one loaf. Jesus warns of the danger of certain leaven (yeast). The apostles think that he is referring to their lack of bread. Jesus reminds them of his multiplication of the loaves, and of their lack of understanding of the significance of the miracle (Mark 8:14-21). It is a curious text, but the point seems to be that Jesus is calling on his apostles (and the church) to reflect on the miracles of the leaves, his meals, eventually the bread and wine become Eucharist and their significance as a signs and pledge of his saving and encouraging presence with the church, in times of need and always. There are so many aspects of the Eucharistic mystery that call for reflection.
The 2012 50th Eucharistic International Congress in Dublin had as its theme “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with One Another”. The theme reminds us of the place of the living Christ in the Eucharist as a source of personal union, communion, with God and with one another, Christ’s brothers and sisters.
The real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine is a mystery, to be understood by faith. Already in Christ’s day, as represented in John’s Gospel, his Jewish listeners objected: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus replies insisting on his teaching. When many of his disciples said; “This is a hard teaching; who can listen to it?” among other points Jesus replies: “What if you were to see the Sin of Man ascending where he was before?” (John 6:52-65). We grasp the mystery of his Eucharistic presence better when we consider it in the context of Jesus, true man and true God, his ascent into heaven, and enthronement at God’s right hand. Down the centuries the Church has taken Jesus’ words on the bread and wine as his body and blood literally and lived with the mystery, a mystery as ever hard to put in human words. She has refused the view that the bread and wine only represent the body and blood of Christ. At the consecration there is a transformation, in some way, of the elements bread and wine involved. Her belief was incarnated in the respect for the bread and wine after the consecration, in the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and in Eucharistic devotion. These were the manners in which the faithful expressed, and continue to express, their faith in Christ’s Eucharistic presence. When the belief was challenged by Berengarius, the Church formally responded in 1079 that at the consecration the bread and wine were substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) this change was referred to as transubstantiation. The Council of Trent (1551) took up the question once again at the Reformation affirming that this change at the consecration the “holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation”, words repeated in the more recent (1994) Catechism of the Catholic Church. (paragraph 1376).Such Christian and Catholic beliefs as “consubstantial” and “transubstantiation”, not being words current in ordinary discourse, should not be the subjects of popular opinion polls. They are terms chosen by the Church to make clear her position on certain mysteries.
Questions are still being asked, by the young and not so young at to how we can deny the evidence of our eyes that after the consecration of the elements the bread is not bread but the Body of Christ and the wine not wine but the Blood of Christ. The question and the reply to it are old, candidly perceived and reflected on in the light of faith. We have a clear instance of this in the catechesis addressed to the newly baptised in the Jerusalem Church in the fourth century by its religious leader. In this it is stated that after the consecration we see the bread and it looks as before, but then we recall Christ’s words “This is my Body”, and can we deny this?. Similarly with the wine, and Christ’s word’s: “This is my Blood”. Can we deny this?. Thus is has been down the ages, and is today. We are in the present of a mystery. We admit our sight and profess our faith.