A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 27)
Corpus Christi, Year A – May 29, 2005
“Whoever Eats This Bread …”
Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a // I Cor 10:16-17 // Jn 6:51-58
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
My parents immigrated to the States with a younger brother and became American citizens. In 1997, however, my 82-year old father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His wish was to die in the Philippines, his native land, where my other brothers and I were residing. Our Regional Superior gave me permission to fly to the States and assist my father in his illness. I stayed two weeks in the Bay Area to prepare the return trip of my parents to the Philippines. My father, recently discharged from the hospital, was too weak to go for his daily Mass. When I went to their parish church in Newark, I talked to the pastor about my father’s situation. He gave me permission to give communion to my father and provided a pyx that I could use to carry the sacred host. I was pleasantly surprised that St. Edward Parish has a stock of vessels to be used by parishioners to bring communion to their sick relatives. The daily communion received by my father gave him peace and serenity to trust in the will of God and to accept his imminent death. We left for the Philippines on August 14. He continued to be nourished with the Eucharistic bread until he died two weeks later. At his funeral, we were all in white, not black, in accordance with his wish. The sacred host served as his viaticum. For him, the Eucharistic communion was truly an experience and pledge of eternal life.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly gives a profound insight on the meaning of this feast in light of the Christian vision of death as passage to eternal life. He explicates: “As the Christian sees it, death is both dissolution and transformation. As dissolution it is the cessation of physical life and the deterioration of the body no longer sustained by life-giving blood. As transformation it is the ushering of the human spirit into a new kind of life that has been prepared for in the previous existence … In the renewed liturgical rites the emphasis is clearly on death as transformation. The white vestments, the repeated Alleluias, and, again, the homily all express the joy that a new and better existence is now shared by the deceased faithful believer. It may sound strange to be speaking of death on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. I am doing so only that I might speak all the more forcefully about life … In the Gospel reading for this feast Jesus says, “He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal …” There is no question of Jesus’ meaning, the verb is in the present tense, the communion with Christ in the Eucharist means a sharing here and now in eternal life … Later on in our Sunday reading Jesus says, “… the man who feeds on this bread shall live forever.” Death, therefore, does not destroy this kind of life.”
Eugene Maly then delineates the basic characteristic of eternal life as communion with God: “For John eternal life is the kind of life that is proper to the Father and which he shares with the Son. That is what our reading says about it. Eternal life, then, is God’s life. And the most frequently mentioned quality of this kind of life is that it is shared. This is at the basis of the Christian doctrine of Trinity. That is why the real enemy of eternal life is not natural death, which affects only natural life, but sin, which destroys the union with God and, accordingly, eternal life. When we receive the Eucharistic body and blood of Christ, we are united to him and to the Father. This is sharing in eternal life that is a life of union with God.”
The aspect of sharing is so central to the gift of eternal life that Eucharistic communion necessarily entails union with others who receive Christ’s body and blood. The French theologian, Yves Congar, thus speaks of Eucharist as the perfect sacrament of our incorporation with Christ and as a mystery of communion of the mystical body. He explains: “The Eucharist is food and it is certainly our own soul that it feeds with that incorruptible food which is Christ. But whereas, in the natural and material order, all the power of assimilation resides in us so that we reduce what we eat to form part of our own life, here the power of assimilation belongs to Christ and it is he who, in feeding us, unites us and incorporates us with his life … The Eucharist is, then, the perfect sacrament of our incorporation with Christ. Theologians are unanimous in holding that its special effect is to bring about the unity of the mystical body. By a special increase of grace and of living faith, it incorporates us with Christ precisely inasmuch as it takes us all into the supreme act of love by which he offered himself for us on the cross, so as to bring together into one all God’s children, scattered far and wide. We cannot, then, communicate in isolation from our brethren. We communicate in the true body of Christ only by communicating at the same time in his mystical body. The breaking of the bread brings with it, inseparably, the presence of Christ uniting us to himself and that of the multitude which shares his redemption – the one bread makes us one body, though we are many in number. There we have the whole mystery of the mystical body.”
The feast of Corpus Christi is an invitation to contemplate with amazement and gratitude the real and substantial presence of the glorified Christ in the living sacrament of his body and blood. In a miraculous process called transubstantiation, the whole substance of the bread is changed into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and the whole substance of the wine is changes into the substance of his blood. Truly, the sacrament of the Eucharist is a “mystery of faith” - a mystery which surpasses our understanding and can only be received in faith.
Hence, St. Augustine asserts: “You see on God’s altar bread and a cup. That is what the evidence of your eyes tells you, but your faith requires you to believe that the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ. In these few words we can say perhaps all that faith demands.” Moreover, St. Cyril of Jerusalem exhorts us: “Do not see in the bread and wine merely natural elements, because the Lord has expressly said that they are his body and blood: Faith assures you of this though your senses suggest otherwise.”
Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter, “Mane Nobiscum Domine”, invites us to look to Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist”, as a model in living out a profound Eucharistic faith: “Mysterium fidei! If the Eucharist is a mystery of faith which so greatly transcends our understanding as to call for sheer abandonment to the Word of God, then there can be no one like Mary to act as our support and guide in acquiring this disposition … With the same maternal concern which she showed at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary seems to say to us: Do not waver; trust in the words of my Son. If he was able to change water into wine, he can also turn bread and wine into his body and blood, and through this mystery bestow on believers the living memorial of his Passover, thus becoming the bread of life.”
On this feast of Corpus Christi, as a community of believers, we turn our loving gaze to the Eucharistic Master and render him a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. The giver of the true and living bread, our Lord Jesus Christ is in fact the bread of wisdom and revelation that nourishes all who come to him in faith. Above all, as the glorified and Risen Lord, the Eucharistic Jesus is the ineffable wellspring of eternal life for all who eat and drink his sacramental, Spirit-filled flesh and blood.
Pope John Paul II thus concludes: “In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body and blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope. If, in the presence of this mystery, reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love.”
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. What is our response to Jesus’ auto-revelation: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51)? What is our response to the gift of the Eucharist offered to us by the Risen Lord Jesus?
B. How do we value the reality of the Eucharist as a sacrament of our perfect incorporation into Christ and his Mystical Body? Do we realize the concrete implication of the Eucharist as a way of solidarity – as a “sign and instrument” not only of intimate union with God, but also of the unity of the whole human race?
C. Are we willing to go to the school of Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist” in order to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist? Do we trust that Mary can guide us to a true Eucharistic faith because she herself has a profound relationship with the Eucharist?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Cf. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter, “Mane Nobiscum Domine”, n. 62)
Leader: Let us make our own the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, an eminent theologian and an impassioned poet of Christ in the Eucharist, and turn in hope to the contemplation of that goal to which our hearts aspire in their thirst for joy and peace.
Assembly: “Bone pastor, panis vere,
Iesu, nostre Miserere …”
Come then, good Shepherd, bread divine.
Still show to us thy mercy sign;
Oh, feed us, still keep us thine;
So we may see thy glories shine
in fields of immortality.
O thou, the wisest, mightiest, best,
Our present food, our future rest,
Come, make us each thy chosen guest,
Co-heirs of thine, and comrades blest
With saints whose dwelling is with thee.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Drawing strength from the Eucharist, where Christ offers himself as the living bread for the life of the world, participate fully, actively and consciously in building a world where human life is cherished and defended. Bring to your encounter with Jesus, the Eucharistic Master, all the enthusiasm, all your hopes, all your desire to love and serve.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may appreciate more deeply the gift of the Eucharist, and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 27): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323