Jesus was well aware of physical hunger and thirst, and we have evidence in the Scriptures of how He provided sustenance for those who followed Him. But He was also keenly aware of spiritual starvation and dehydration. He knew that we would expend a lot of energy and concern to provide for our physical needs - and, in the process, neglect the nourishment of our faith-lives. So first He promised and then provided a unique means for us to eat and drink in a way that would fill us with the life of the Spirit. And it is only fitting that He would have chosen the setting of a meal - a Eucharistic meal - in which to do this.
We gather around our family table not merely to eat and drink, but to be healed of anger, to be refreshed in our weariness, and to strengthen the bond of love and concern that makes us a family. So, too, Jesus invites us to gather around the table of the altar to give and receive reconciliation and forgiveness, to be filled with new vigor when we have grown tired in our struggle to be witnesses to the Gospel, and to reinforce the oneness in faith and love that makes us a holy people, a "holy communion", a group of people bound together as His faithful followers.
When we gather to celebrate and share the Eucharist together, we proclaim that we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the kingdom. That's the spirit that should characterize our attitude and outlook each day, and give us the ability to celebrate and affirm life, even in the face of diminishment and difficulty. It is not an excuse for us to be lazy or irresponsible; it does not allow us to be indifferent to suffering and injustice. It challenges us and forces us be involved with the pain of the world, but not absorbed or overwhelmed by it...because our hope is always rooted in the goodness and faithfulness of God.
For centuries the Eucharist was made more and more remote - locked in the Tabernacle, barricaded behind altar railings, and forbidden to so many of the faithful because of legal impediments. Rigid laws of fasting kept many from receiving; consciences over laden with guilt kept good people away from the Eucharist when they were most in need of its healing and comfort. Now we are talking about reopening churches worldwide, so that we can once again receive what has been witheld for so long.
However, all the words of Jesus concerning the Eucharist speak a totally different language.He offers His Body as the Bread of Life; He says strongly: " If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." And He clearly intended that this great Gift should be seen as source of reconciliation and unity in His Church.
This is not a new attitude; it does not excuse irreverence, nor does it eliminate the need for the proper disposition of mind and health before receiving the Eucharist. But it certainly reflects the urgent invitation of Jesus Himself to all of us - not only to RECEIVE His Body and Blood, but also to BECOME His Body and Blood for others.
The Eucharist is a gift, not just to be adored and reverenced, but also to be consumed, digested and lived by every Christian. What were once the simple gifts of bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of our Savior - the new covenant between God and mankind. It is not a private gift, but a communal one. When the priest holds up the consecrated Host and the cup of Wine and says, " This is My Body… this is My Blood ", he is also saying, for Jesus, "You Are My Body... You Are My Blood!" Jesus gives us His Body and Blood so that He might live in us and so that we, then, might become life for the world.
What does God see when He looks into our minds and hearts, and lives? Does He see evidence of our oneness with one another? Does He see signs of change and growth.... or does He see a boring routine of old habits repeating themselves mechanically?
Today many of us face the real possibility of not being able to celebrate the Eucharist as often as we are accustomed. For some, this has already become a reality. It is so easy for us to take the Eucharist for granted; we let our participation at Mass become old, routine, and boring. We think of God the same way, we pray the same way; we hang on to the same petty gripes and grudges. We keep the same old friends and the same old enemies.
But God is always new, always challenging. Each new circumstance of our life should lead us to a new understanding of His goodness and love. As we grow older, God should become younger for us.
If we understand and accept the mystery of Eucharist, then we should realize that we are one in the spirit with all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and especially with those who share our Roman Catholic tradition. There should be a bond of love and welcome between them and us that should help us overcome all other differences. Diversity should not be an obstacle or a threat to us. We should realize how the church of Christ is enriched by the great variety of ideas and thoughts - and dreams - that are brought together as we come to celebrate and to be nourished in the Eucharist.
The feast of Corpus Christi is a witness to this. Our oneness in faith and love is the strongest evidence that Jesus and His spirit are in fact working among us to bring all people together in the peace and justice of God's kingdom. It is the testament of a shared "communion" in which we are all aware of our commitment to "be" the body and blood of Christ in all we do.