A living gift

By | June 2, 2010

The Old Testament has many scripture passages that foretell the coming gift of the Eucharist. The church this Sunday begins by pointing us to Genesis and the mysterious “Melchizedek, king of Salem” who “brought out bread and wine” and was “a priest of God Most High.” The origins of Melchizedek are shrouded in mystery and he foreshadows the present priesthood of God that is not tied to a Jewish bloodline. He also offers the gift of “bread and wine.” This imagery is not lost on the Christian who understands that the true significance of this act will be understood in relation to Christ who will transform the bread and wine of the Passover into the living memorial offering of his own Body and Blood.


Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

The church then selects a very special passage from St. Paul where Paul is actually quoting what he himself was taught and memorized about the Eucharist. Most of the second reading is probably from the mind of the apostles and catechists of the early church who taught Paul the meaning of the Eucharist. Within this passage is captured the words of Jesus instituting the Eucharist and which would later be recorded in the Gospels, “this is my body that is for you. Do this is remembrance of me. This is cup is the new covenant in my blood.”

From the earliest days, Christians have not minced words on their understanding of the literal transformation of bread and wine into the resurrected Christ at Eucharist. In fact some like St. Justin the Martyr were suspected of being cannibals. In light of this truth, the word “remembrance” is not to be understood to simply mean “think of me” but rather has a deeper significance and power in the original language and usage of “make me present again.” The resurrected Lord does just this in a dramatic fashion through the Holy Mass. This eucharistic encounter St. Paul records as being an encounter specifically with his saving sacrificial death. He is careful to record these words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” The Holy Spirit has revealed to the church that at Mass, Jesus himself, resurrected from the dead, actually makes his saving, living sacrifice on Calvary available to the present generation gathered at Mass. It is a glorious offer of love to each and every soul present.

The treasure of receiving Christ in holy Communion has multiple effects. It unites us to God who loves us more than we could know, it unites us to others who have received him throughout the world and it also empowers us for mission and to go and “give them food yourselves.” When God works to save a person, his saving action does not end with the individual’s heart, but rather they are sent onward to others until all persons are fed salvation. This salvation offered through Christ is so bountiful and inexhaustible that it has the capacity to feed every hungering heart ever created. This truth is imaged in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. What is considered to be a small amount becomes the source of food for everyone with even some to spare. So too it is with Jesus who appears as a singular lonely death but who becomes the source of eternal life for all who believe.


Questions for Reflection

1. Do I recognize the salvation offered me in holy Communion?

2. For what in my life has Christ shed his blood?

3. To whom does God send me?


Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top