2024 Lenten Deanery Holy Hour – National Eucharistic Revival
Mark 14:12-16, 22-25 

For over two years, we have been participating with Catholics from throughout our land in a Eucharistic Revival – a time that has invited us to renew our spirits through the living presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.  I thank our host pastor, my brother priests and deacons and so many of you from parishes throughout this Deanery for the kind opportunity to reflect with you for just a few moments upon the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist – the source and summit of our lives as Christians.

Recall the words just proclaimed from Saint Mark’s gospel.  During the course of the Last Supper, Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it” to his disciples.  …  We know these words well.  While they are familiar words reflecting the action of Jesus at the Last Supper, let’s probe their meaning a bit more and allow them to speak to our hearts.  In their simplicity and familiarity, they capture the essence of the Eucharist and what we are about during this season of revival.  …  “Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave bread to his disciples.”

First, Jesus “took” bread. …  Jesus took what was placed upon a table in the upper room for the Passover meal.  He didn’t give directions for how it was to have been baked – or its shape – or the length of time for baking.  Maybe it was underbaked.  Perhaps it was burned on the edges.  Yet, Jesus took what he found.

Reflecting upon Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes, Saint Teresa of Calcutta offered these words, “Before Jesus taught the people, he had pity on the multitude, and he fed them.  He made a miracle.  He blessed the bread, and he fed five thousand people.  He did so not because they were perfect but because he loved them.  He had pity on them.  He saw the hunger in their faces, and he fed them. And only once they were fed did he teach them.”           

Just so with us!  In inviting us to the table of the Eucharist, Jesus takes us as we are – wounds, blemishes and all!  He sees the hunger in our faces, and he responds to us with compassion and mercy.  Recall Jesus’ words from Saint Luke’s gospel, “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

How do we see ourselves as we come to the Eucharist? …  Do we carry with us the belief that we must be perfect and righteous in all that we do to approach the Lord? …  Do we bring a judgment that some of us are worthy of the Eucharist while others are not?

Or do we come to the table of the Lord in a spirit of honesty and openness to God’s will, recognizing that none of us are worthy on our own – but by the grace and mercy of God. …  Do we come with the words of Pope Francis seared into our hearts, “Although it is the fullness of sacramental life, the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”  …  Do we come searching and seeking a power bigger than ourselves that alone can lift us out of the mess of this world and our lives and give us hope?

Jesus did not live in two worlds, one sacred and one profane.  He did not lead two lives, one holy and one secular.  The incarnation destroyed that distinction.  In the loving plan of God for creation, Jesus immersed himself in our human condition for the simple fact that on our own, we are unable to save ourselves!  Recall the words that we hear so often from John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might eternal life.”  …  As he “took” bread, Jesus takes us – as we are – to be transformed into his life!

Then Jesus “blessed” the bread and does the same to each life that approaches him in the Eucharist with faith and humility. …  While Mark’s gospel describes Jesus as having “blessed” bread, the words with which most of us are familiar from the Eucharistic Prayers offered at Mass are “giving thanks.”  Much like we give thanks and ask God’s blessing upon the food that we receive at mealtime, Jesus gives thanks to his Father and blesses bread, making it holy – just as he blesses us, making us holy – despite our limitations, brokenness and sin. 

While privileged to receive the very life of God in this great sacrament, we ought never sidestep the reality of sin in our lives.  Far from it.  The Eucharist celebrates the firm belief that within Christ’s personhood, which is at the heart of the sacrament, the bounty of God’s grace and human brokenness are forever joined together.  The great Saint Thomas Aquinas affirmed this reality, noting that “no other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away.” 

While encouraged to seek the forgiveness of serious sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we ought not forget that the healing nature of the Eucharist is acknowledged at every Mass in the words of institution, “This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for the you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”   We don’t often stop to reflect upon the healing, forgiving power of the Eucharist, do we?  Yet, Jesus took bread as he found it, blessed it and made it holy – just as he does with us!

Following the actions of “taking” and “blessing,” Jesus “broke” the bread.

Throughout the gospels, we find Jesus, time and again, moved with pity for the suffering world in which he was immersed.  From hungry masses yearning to be fed, to wounded souls in search of healing, to lives on the margins of society oppressed by the self-righteous, Jesus’ own life begins to break apart for the sake of those he loved so well.  In broken bread, then, we discover the broken Christ whose blood was poured forth for our life and salvation.

But we are also challenged to see ourselves in this action.  The words of institution are not solely about what happens Jesus or to bread and wine.  They are also about what happens to those of us who embrace the crosses that rest upon our shoulders and walk the journey of life with Jesus.  They are words that speak to our lives when we carry the cross of an addicted child – an aging parent – a suffering spouse – and give so completely of ourselves for their life and well-being. 

As Jesus’ suffering and death gave way to life and resurrection, our encounter with the risen Lord will also give way to life, but only when we are humble enough to place our lives on the cross of Christ and to suffer with him for the sake of the gospel for which he gave his life.  Therein is the mystery, the power and the true grace found in the Eucharist.

Finally, brothers and sisters, at the Last Supper, Jesus “gave” bread to his disciples.  He gave his broken body and blood as food for their life and salvation. …  In the singular act of Jesus’ self-giving to us, we begin to understand that an authentic encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist demands far more than a few moments alone with the Lord whom we adore. 

 The selfless pattern of Jesus’ life becomes the path for our journey as disciples.  In receiving Christ in the Eucharist, we discover who and what we are to become.  Recall the words of Saint Augustine shared many times during this season of eucharistic revival, “Become the mystery you celebrate.”  …  Become the broken Christ whose life was poured forth for those that he loved.

In reflecting upon the Eucharist, Pope Francis reminds us that “in the Body and Blood of Christ, we find Jesus’ presence, his life given for each of us.  He not only gives us help to go forward, but he gives us himself — he makes himself our travelling companion, he enters into our affairs  …  giving meaning to our life, to our darkness, our doubts.”

Yet, the Holy Father goes on to say that the Lord not only calls us to be citizens of Heaven.  He also considers the journey we must face here on earth.  “Sometimes there is the risk of confining the Eucharist to a vague dimension, bright and perfumed with incense, but distant from the straits of everyday life.  …  Our Eucharistic adoration comes alive when we take care of our neighbor like Jesus does.  There is hunger for food, but also for companionship, for consolation, friendship, good humor; there is hunger for attention and hunger to be evangelized.  We find this in the Eucharistic – Christ’s attention to our needs and the invitation to do the same toward those who are beside us.”  The Holy Father concluded, “We need to eat but we also need to feed others.”

 As Jesus “gave” broken bread to his disciples – to you and me – the gift of his life carries with it a responsibility for mission.  His life must be given away.

May we, then, who receive and adore Christ, become Christ in loving service to one another. …  May we become Christ for our husband/our wife – for our mother/our father – our son/our daughter – our neighbor/our friend. …  May we become Christ for the unborn child – for the hungry poor – for those whom we have relegated to the margins of our world because of our own self-righteousness – for the immigrant – for victims of war and terrorism – and for the forgotten.

Brothers and sisters, through the grace and power of God’s Spirit, may we see ourselves in the Christ whom we worship and adore this night.  And may his voice speak to our hearts as he calls us, through his grace and mercy, to become bread for one another – taken by God as we are – blessed and transformed – broken – and given for the life of our world. Amen!