Whether it's an ordinance or a sacrament, whether it's communion or the Eucharist, whether it's consubstantiation or transubstantiation, all differences aside, everyone who knows me and how I think knows that I believe that it's a spiritual experience that is meant for everyone to share.
The Eucharist is, first and foremost and always, a thanksgiving celebration of (and for) the entire people of God.
In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in a thanksgiving sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator as the giver and sustainer of life. In the Old Testament, Melchizedek, who was both a priest and king, offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. His offering prefigured the Passover, the Seder Meal and the Last Supper offering eventually made by Jesus, our High Priest and King.
In the Old Testament, the priest is separate from the victim of sacrifice. However, in the New Testament, the priest and the victim are one and inseparable. As the Book of Hebrews refers to Him as High Priest, Jesus is also the victim who offered His Body and Blood for the life and salvation of the world.
In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day." At this proclamation, Jesus was left with a fewer number of followers as the crowd who followed Him were offended by His words, and grew thinner.
This crowd was expecting an earthly food like He gave them during the miracle of the multiplication of loaves. Jesus, however, introduced a spiritual food which prepares and in some unknown spiritual way, sustains the soul into eternity. Like the Israelites who journeyed through the desert with different challenges of hunger and thirst were fed by God with a manna from heaven, so we, who journey through life amid earthly challenges, temptations, and tribulations are nourished by communion as food for the journey.
I particularly like the words of a sermon once given by Pope Francis, who preached: “If we look around us, we realize that there are so many offers of food that do not come from the Lord and which seem to satisfy more. Some nourish themselves with money, others with success and vanity, others with power and pride. However, the food that really nourishes us and satiates us is only that which the Lord gives us. The food the Lord offers us is different from the others, and perhaps it does not seem as tasty as certain foods which the world offers us.”
There is a hunger in man which earthly foods cannot quench. It is a hunger for God, for eternity, for peace of soul. These can only be satisfied by the food and drink which Jesus offers. These can only be quenched by Jesus Himself.
The Eucharist also summarizes our daily living. In it, Christ invites us to work with Him, to become bread broken for others and blood shed for others. At the Last Supper, He said: “Take it; this is my body. This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
Jesus not only said those words, He lived them by a life of self-giving and by giving His life on the Cross. He said, "Do this in remembrance of me." You and I are to do the same. In our daily lives, as we remember Him in our every reception of communion, we should mirror Him in the Eucharist.
We ought to become more and more like Him: Giving ourselves in availability for others, pouring out our lives in service, and in love of others.
The Rev. Skip Davis is pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, Corry.