The body and blood of Christ
May 24th, 2016
By Deacon Faiva Po’oi
The Gospel makes allusions to fish a number of times; some of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen. The letter of the Greek word for fish, “ichthus,” became an acronym for “Jesus, Christ, God, Son, Savior.”
In the Gospel we hear the miracle of loaves and fish. It’s interesting to think that this episode of real need is a eucharistic story. The people are really in need of food, and the Lord provides for them. The loaves and fishes are much more than real food, though. There is a miracle of community that takes place as the disciples feed the thousands, one can only imagine the buzz of warmth and excitement that must have passed among those who gathered; to sit at the feet the Lord and listen to him preaching; then to be together enjoying an endless bounty. Does it sound familiar? Isn’t that what our own Eucharist is about? The Lord’s bounty is so great that there is food to spare, and it is not wasted. In our own lives, in our church, our community, our family, we are given life in abundance, so much life that we are called to share it with others. That is the fundamental call of the Christian. The Eucharist gives us “Bread for the Journey.”
The Holy Communion, “the Body and Blood of Christ,” is solidarity. Late Pope St. John Paul II, along with his Polish friends, made solidarity a household word. It’s an idea that goes to our very Christian beginnings. To be in solidarity means to “Love our neighbor as ourselves;” to jump in and stand with other people in their time of need as well as in their good times. Our sharing in the body and blood of Christ isn’t just for ourselves; St Paul in his first Letter to the Corinthians makes it clear that we eat and drink ourselves into the Paschal Mystery. That is, when our eating and drinking truly “Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes,” we ourselves “Hand our body – our lives – for the salvation of others.
Discipleship is both accepting the abundance of what God gives us and living out the responsibility having that abundance implies. When we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, we ourselves are transformed more perfectly into the presence of that risen Christ for others. This transformation is both gift and challenge. It is the gift and pledge that what we have now – Jesus’ Body and Blood – we will also have even more fully at the messianic banquet. It is the challenge to give ourselves for the sake of others, and that is a mystery.
The real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a hurdle for many outside the Catholic communities. But we know through the eyes of faith, that, He is truly present under the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist. When we say, “it’s a mystery,” we’re not copping out – we’re simply admitting that our senses cannot perceive alone all of the reality that God has created. Vatican II reminded us that Christ is present in more ways than one. First, He is truly present, Body and blood; in the Eucharist. Christ is truly present in the gathered community, the Scriptures and the priest. Each time we gather at the Eucharist we experience, in a sense, our own miracle of the loaves and fishes.
Deacon Po’oi serves at St. Timothy Parish, San Mateo.
From May 26, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.