In Mark’s Gospel (14:22-26), we read about the Institution of the Lord’s Supper. There, in the Upper Room, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said: “Take, this is my body.” Shortly thereafter, Jesus took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it them. He said: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Did you know that each time we celebrate the Eucharist and receive Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion, we renew that covenant?
This past week, I found myself thinking about the Mass and especially, it’s many parts. From the Introductory Rites to the Eucharistic Prayer to the Dismissal, each has a special place within our liturgical worship of the Lord.
By our attendance at Mass, we have been exposed to these many parts. Over time, these parts become so familiar to us that it is though they become part of us. Nonetheless, there is one phrase repeated more than any other.
At the distribution of Holy Communion, the bishop, priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister, says the following words over and over: The Body of Christ or The Blood of Christ. In the silence of our worship space, if we listen closely, these four words form a litany. If we allow them, they possess the capacity to penetrate our entire being.
We might ask ourselves, why is it that these words are repeated over and over?
The obvious answer is that for each communicant, the one distributing Holy Communion is required to say these words. Or is it that we need a continual reminder that we are not the source of life’s answers? Still yet, perhaps the answer rests in the reality that these words are not just words. But rather, that these words signify the presence of some One. At the liturgy, that One is Jesus Christ. He is present. The eternal Word is in our midst.
In the Eucharist, Jesus is fully present: body, blood, soul, and divinity. And His deepest desire is to give Himself to each of us in order that we might be more fully joined to His body. Once joined, we are forever changed and called to go forth so that we might be the body of Christ for others.
As such, when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we should always say: “Amen! Yes, Lord, do with me as you will. My journey begins and ends with you!”
I once read an article that contained the testimony of a man who reflected on how certain Catholic practices had made an impression upon him while he was still a Protestant, especially the Catholic custom of bowing one’s head in honor of the Real Presence when passing a Catholic church. While many of us no longer subscribe to that tradition, perhaps in our increasingly secularized society, a return to such a practice might be worth considering.
As Lent fast approaches Holy Week and Easter, I am reminded of an interesting mathematical calculation published some years ago by The Word Among Us. Entitled “The Greatest Bailout Known to Man,” it noted:
“Recently, world population passed the 7 billion mark. If we imagine that, on average, each person commits 10 sins a day, a total of 70 billion sins are committed each day. Now, multiply that by 365, and you get over 25 trillion sins every year. If you multiply 25 trillion by the current average life expectancy of 68, you come up with over 1.7 quadrillion. This figure does not include those 6 billion people who lived on the earth before us. Of course, there is no way of truly estimating how many sins are committed each day, but just looking at calculations like these gives us a sense of the immense number of sins committed against the Lord and other people.”
Your sins. My sins. Our sins. All washed away in the blood of Jesus.