Rev. Mark Watson/Pastor
BREAD OF LIFE
Jesus makes a surprising claim in the last verse of today’s Gospel. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51).” Jesus promises to give his flesh for the life of the world. Many of the ideas in this article are taken from Models of the Eucharist written by Kevin W. Irwin.
I would like to use this quote to help us understand the Eucharist. First of all Jesus states, “and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:51).”
We believe that the risen Christ is actively present in the celebration of the Mass. First of all Christ is present in the assembly that worships together. Christ is present when the Word of God is proclaimed in the Mass. During the celebration of the Mass, Christ is present in the ministry of the priest. Christ is present in a unique and continual way in the Eucharistic species.
The presence of the risen Christ in the consecrated bread and wine is called transubstantiation. The substance of the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
MEMORIAL OF THE PASCHAL MYSTERY
Jesus not only says that the bread that he will give is his flesh but also that that this gift is “for the life of the world.” How does the Eucharist give life to the world?
In the Eucharist we live out the command of Jesus, “Do this in memory of me.” This command was given at the Passover. The Passover is a celebration of God’s freeing the People of Israel from slavery in Egypt. At the Passover meal, the participants did not merely look back on past events but they became the people who were being saved by God in the present.
In the same way, during the Mass we remember of the paschal mystery; the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord. We do not merely recall these events as if we were present beneath the cross of Jesus or present in the tomb of Jesus. Instead we are drawn into those saving actions in the present so that what we experience is a “hear and now” act of salvation by God. Thus the Mass is not going back in history, history becomes a part of the present. And in the unique moment of liturgical commemoration during the Mass, the risen Christ works out our salvation.
At the same time the Mass points ahead to a future reality. We have died with Christ and we shall rise with him in the future. All liturgy looks ahead to the final coming of the Lord.
In the Mass we recall the past, summon the future and experience the here and now a new event in saving history.
FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY
In the first reading the queen of Judah, Queen Jezebel, has threatened the life of Elijah. The prophet attempts to escape from the queen. During the journey Elijah decides to give up. He asks God to take his life. An angel is sent to the prophet and gives him bread and water to sustain him on his journey. Strengthened by this food the prophet is able to journey, for 40 days and 40 nights, to Mount Horeb. This story reminds us of a third aspect of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Food for the Journey. The sacrament for one who is dying is called Viaticum, which means Food for the Journey in Latin. Viaticum strengthens one as they journey from death to life.
Eucharist is always Viaticum, food for our journey. The Eucharist reminds us that we are on a journey to eternal life. In the celebration of the Eucharist we are given a glimpse of the heavenly banquet and a taste of bread from heaven. In the Eucharist we pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom. At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer the priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the Sin of the World. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb”. The Supper of the Lamb refers to the heavenly banquet. It is a reminder that in the Eucharist we experience a reflection of the heavenly banquet. In the Eucharist we receive the strength we need to continue our journey to eternal life. In each Eucharist we receive the true presence of the Risen Christ; we celebrate the memorial of the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Our Lord and we are given food to sustain us on our journey to eternal life.
May we always hunger for the Bread of Life. Fr. Mark