Lately, my prayers before Mass have centered on my openness to receiving Jesus into myself. On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we call to mind what the Eucharist means to us. To reflect on the Body and Blood of Christ is to remember that Jesus has given His entire self for our salvation. At Mass, we believe that His sacrifice, made “once for all,” is made present for us.
What is our response to this total gift of Jesus? If we remember that the word “Eucharist” is Greek for “Thanksgiving,” our first response is gratitude. Our second response is giving of ourselves in return. In the context of the Mass, this involves being present to Jesus as we believe He is present to us. We also make ourselves present to each other. When we are not there, something is missing from this sacred celebration.
Giving of ourselves, of course, has also to do with what we do before and after Mass. The gift of Jesus which we share at Mass is a challenge to how we relate to the world in all aspects of our lives. In our Gospel reading, when the apostles see that it is getting late, and that there is a great crowd to see Jesus, but it is in a deserted place, they come to Jesus with the suggestion that He dismiss the crowds so that they can buy something to eat. To the apostles’ credit, they are aware of the needs of the people. But when Jesus (rather mischievously, I think) replies, “Give them some food yourselves,” you can imagine the look on their faces: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people. [And surely, Jesus, you don’t mean that, right?)”
Sometimes our hesitancy to give comes from thinking we don’t have anything worthwhile to give. Sometimes we’re afraid to lose what we have if we give. Maybe the apostles had these fears in mind. But in the multiplication of the loaves and fish, Jesus dispels these fears, and gives the food to the apostles to give to the crowds. As Jesus has given us His Body and Blood poured out for us, He invites us to trust that He will give us all we need to do what He commands us to do. We need not be afraid to give, no matter how little we think it might be.
And so we’re called to give of ourselves, both materially and spiritually. In our second reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you …” He then proceeds to articulate what we believe about Jesus and why we celebrate the Eucharist. In our first reading from Genesis, Abram gives Melchizedek “a tenth of everything,” in response to Melchizedek’s blessing and all that God had done for him.
Receiving the gift of Jesus and giving of ourselves in return leads us to abundant life. Now I know this doesn’t make sense in a worldly way. Often, the wisdom of the world celebrates greed, and sees giving as losing. But this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ tells us that the greatest gift of God’s love cannot be taken away from us! Giving what we have been given does not diminish what we have, but helps it to grow! Giving is not lived out in isolated incidents, but as a way of life, in gratitude for the gift of Jesus we share at Mass.
May we be fed in the Eucharist to help feed others and to share our abundant life in Christ with the world.
Fr. Phil, CP