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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: October 16, 2004
By Father Andrew Smith
When we eat his body and drink his blood, we are given a share in Christ’s life. When we share the body and blood of Christ we are united to him and to each other. The celebration of Mass is a celebration of unity and life.” “Breaking of Bread … this gesture of Christ at the Last Supper gave the entire eucharistic action its name in apostolic times.
In addition to its practical aspect, it signifies that in Communion, we who are many, are made one body in the one bread of life which is Christ.” (“General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” 1973, 56c) On the night before he suffered and died, Jesus took some bread, he blessed it and broke it and he said to them, “This is my body,” then he gave it to his disciples.
At the same meal he took a cup of wine, he blessed it and handed it to his disciples saying, “This is my blood.” Then he said to these followers of his, “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus gave his body as bread and his blood as wine at the last meal before his death. From that occasion Jesus’ followers have done as he commanded, and it is what we do in every celebration of the Eucharist.
Clearly it was no accident that Jesus chose to use food and drink — bread and wine — as something to remember him by — as something to make his presence real — even when he was no longer on this earth as a human being. Food and drink often play some part when we have a gathering of people. It is probable that we do not think much about why we do this, but we enjoy doing it.
The food and drink helps unite us with others as we share it. Having a meal with someone is also a way of getting to know them better. A more obvious use of food is tragically called to mind when we see pictures of starving people. We may take the presence of food and drink in our daily lives for granted — those people most certainly do not.
All of us, however, have in common the need for food and drink; food and drink sustain life. Jesus has commanded us to do as he did — to take bread and wine — and by the power of the Holy Spirit they become the Body and Blood of Christ. This food and drink is the sign and giver of unity and life. When we eat his body and drink his blood, we are given a share in Christ’s life.
When we share the body and blood of Christ we are united to him and to each other. The celebration of Mass is a celebration of unity and life. We become in this way, living members of the Body of Christ — the Church. Each time we celebrate Mass together, we remember the Last Supper and commemorate the means of achieving a share in the real and everlasting life of God.
The love and peace of the life of God is revealed to us through the Mass. We are strengthened in that life, and by partaking of this heavenly food and drink we are able to grow in that unselfish love which is the hallmark — the true sign and presence of the Body of Christ, the Church — in heaven and on earth.