Twice in John’s gospel, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” (Cf. John 6: 35, 38) It was an early teaching about the Eucharist to come.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us that Eucharist. “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’” (Matthew 26:26).
He broke the bread. Only bread that is broken can be shared. On the cross Jesus’ body was broken. Now he shares his body for those who need to be nourished,
Since we are members of his body through Baptism, we can say that at Mass Jesus takes us, blesses us, breaks us, and gives us as food to those who need to be nourished.
— He breaks apart our fears.
— He breaks down our prejudices.
— He breaks apart our selfishness.
— He breaks down any unforgiveness.
— Then He breaks open our hearts that love may pour out.
He does all this so that, as broken bread, we are now able to feed those in need.
Yes, feed those in need. At Mass we receive Jesus, the Bread of Life. Pope Leo I said, “We are transformed into what we have consumed.” That means we become, like Christ, the bread of life. We become bread for others. We are then sent forth to feed those who hunger. We are sent forth to feed:
— The bereaved, who hunger for the bread of compassion.
— The fearful, who hunger for the bread of encouragement.
— The ignorant, who hunger for the bread of truth.
— The lonely, who hunger for bread of understanding.
— The oppressed, who hunger for the bread of justice.
— The repentant, who hunger for the bread of forgiveness.
— Our world, that hungers for the bread of peace.
At the Last Supper, after giving us his body and blood, Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) Do what in memory of Him? Jesus challenges us to give up our bodies and pour out our blood, to give our lives for others as he did, and to do it in memory of him.
To participate in Sunday Mass is to be involved in a lifelong process of dying to self that we may give our lives as Jesus did. By God’s grace, in the course of our lifetime, we will feed many thousands.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/