I love the pattern that our Church gives us in the Scripture readings every weekend. We are given a taste of the Old Testament and its connection to the feast or Sunday celebration. Then we listen to some part of Jesus’ life and the life of the Church that gives us Jesus’ enfleshment of the Old Testament blessing. We are left with the task of takinging the example of Jesus and the promise from the First Covenant and find out how it fits into our lives today.
There are many situations throughout the Old Testament where people are hungry and God feeds them where and when they need to be fed. Whether strangers stopping at the entrance of a tent, or a poor prophet imposing on a widow for a cake, or the people wandering through the desert who are given manna to eat, one way or another, God feeds the people.
Jesus gives us the ultimate experience of what it means for God to feed the people. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” Jesus reveals to us the commitment that God has to us and how God will feed us. In the past, it was manna or a bread cake or unleavened bread, but when Jesus seals the covenant with and for us, He gives us Himself. The nourishment that we need is Jesus Himself, not just bread and wine. We are able to share at the table of the Lord’s Supper, feasting on the Bread of Life. There is always a consequence to partaking at that table. “Do this in memory of me.” We commit ourselves through our “Amen” to do what Jesus did and give our lives, our flesh and blood, for the life of the world.
As we receive the Flesh and Blood of Jesus, we must do the same for others. Our lives are meant to be given for the sake of another. Those of you who are parents know more than most of us exactly what it means. A child in a mother’s womb lives because the mother’s body shares nutrients with her unborn child. She gives her flesh for the life of that child. Parents work hard, lose sleep at night, raise their children to the best of their ability, and show compassion and forgiveness, even when they are almost spent. Many among us have been placing their own flesh and blood in jeopardy for our health and well-being, faithfully carrying on the mission that the Bread of Life has set for us to follow.
How are you called to be the Body of Christ for the world? How are you meant to carry on the great gift that we are allowed to receive in the Eucharist?
St. Paul reminds us that we are one body, all sharing in the Bread of Life. We know that there are parts of the Body who are starving. It’s constantly in focus that there are parts of the Body who are not treated with the dignity that a child of God deserves. We see before us the chances we have to make the Body more whole than it is right now. Living out Pentecost and being one in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are called to live a life of integrity, free from prejudice, hatred, and violence. When those who were in the desert tried to take more than what they needed for one day, it became rotten and was filled with maggots.
Can we keep that image alive as we decide how all are fed and receive the gift of eternal life?
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.