Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, "All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do." And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, "See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."
But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
Now if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Sitting together for a meal can generate a special feeling of unity. Each of us will have our own memories of table fellowship. Many of these will be happy moments of celebration and laughter, experiences of companionship received and shared. Some mealtime memories may be sad, when we were more aware of one who was absent than of those who were present. Jesus sat at table many times with his disciples. It is likely that, when sharing food with them, he also shared with them his vision of God's kingdom . At table, they imbibed aspects of Jesus' mind and heart and spirit. Of all the meals he shared with them, the meal that stayed in their memory more than any other was on the day before he died, what came to be known as the last supper. Today's gospel gives us Mark's account, his word-picture, of that last supper.
This last meal Jesus shared with his disciples stood out in their memory, capturing the imagination of generations of disciples right up to ourselves. He did more than share his vision with the disciples; he gave them himself in a way he had never done before, and in a way that anticipated the death he would die for them and for all, on the following day. In giving himself in the form of the bread and wine of the meal, he was declaring himself to be their food and drink. In calling on them to take and eat, to take and drink, he was asking them to take their stand with him, to give themselves to him as he was giving himself to them.
It was because of that supper and of what went on there that we are here in this church today. Jesus intended his last supper to be a beginning rather than an end. It was the first Eucharist. Ever since that meal, the church has gathered regularly in his name, to do and say what he did and said at that last supper–taking bread and wine, blessing both, breaking the bread and giving both for disciples to eat and drink.
Jesus continues to give himself as food and drink to his followers. He also continues to put it up to his followers to take their stand with him, to take in all he stands for, living by his values, walking in his way, even if that means the cross. Whenever we come to Mass and receive the Eucharist, we are making a number of important statements. We are acknowledging Jesus as our bread of life, as the one who alone can satisfy our deepest hungers. We are also declaring that we will throw in our lot with him, as it were, that we will follow in his way and be faithful to him all our lives, in response to his faithfulness to us. In that sense, celebrating the Eucharist is not something we do lightly. Our familiarity with the Mass and the frequency with which we celebrate it can dull our senses to the full significance of what we are doing. Every time we gather for the Eucharist, we find ourselves once more in that upper room with the first disciples, and the last supper with all it signified is present again to us.
(From the Didaché "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles"):
"Concerning the Eucharist, give thanks as follows. First, concerning the cup: We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever. And concerning the broken bread: We give you thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge that you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever. Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and then was gathered together and became one, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom; for yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever." (Didaché 9:1–4)
Jesus is living food for us, sent from the Father in heaven. Unlike ordinary food, which just sustains life, this food gives a life that is eternal.From the burning bush to the gentle breeze, God has made his presence known among us since the beginning of time. Being among us as food for body and spirit is a significant way of being present. Christ's eucharistic presence is in bread and wine, among the commonest elements of food and drink in his day. The Lord is present among us through everyday things.
Bread comes from a process that begins with seeds of wheat mixed with water. These are brought together as dough and, after several stages of development, they end up as a unity which we call bread. Wine begins as a cluster of grapes which, when they are processed, they end up as what we call wine. A group of people gather together for prayer, each of them unique. After a process which is the work of God's Spirit, they become a unity, which we call church, or the Body of Christ. In communion, the (community) Body of Christ is being nourished by the (sacramental) Body of Christ.
If someone invited you all to gather around me, as close as you can, because he was going to whisper to you, something else would take place that might surprise you. You'd notice that the closer you come to me the closer you'd be to each other. If you gathered closely around one person, you would be touching shoulders with each other. That is how community or the Body of Christ is formed. It is a question of bringing people closer to the Lord and, as a direct result of that, they end up being closer to each other.
Throughout history, God has spoken to his people in surprising ways. He spoke to Elijah through the gentle breeze, and he spoke to Moses in the burning bush. The natives of Bethlehem weren't too excited that a new baby had been born and, later on, Herod would mock Jesus as a fool, and the soldiers would jeer him as a king. After the resurrection, Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener, Peter thought he was a ghost, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus thought he was a stranger passing through. That he should present himself in so simple a form as food and drink is just what we might expect from "The God of Surprises."
(José Antonio Pagola)
Pope Francis keeps repeating that fears, doubts, lack of boldness… all can radically keep us from pushing the renewal our Church needs today. In The Joy of the Gospel he even says that if we stay paralyzed by fear, we can once more end up simply being «spectators of a sterile stagnancy in our Church». His words are worth thinking about. What do we see happening among us? Are we being mobilized to revive the faith of our Christian communities, or do we keep marking time within that "sterile stagnancy" that Francis talks about? Where can we find energy to act?
One of Vatican II's great achievements was to push us forward in regards to the Mass: till then understood as an individual obligation to fulfill a sacred law, towards the Eucharist lived out as a joyful celebration of the whole community that nourishes our faith, helps us grow in solidarity, and awakens our hope in the Risen Jesus Christ. Throughout these years, we have indeed moved forward in important ways. We are far from those frequently muttered Masses celebrated in Latin, in which the priests "read" the Mass and the Christian people came just to «hear» Mass or «assist» at the celebrations. But aren't we still celebrating the Eucharist in a routine and boring manner?
It's undeniable that people are abandoning the Sunday practice at an alarming rate, in part because they don't find in our celebrations the atmosphere, the clear word, the expressive ritual, the stimulating welcome that they need to nourish their weak and failing faith. All of us, pastors and laity alike, need to ask ourselves what are we doing so that the Eucharist would be «the center and the culmination of the Christian community's whole life»? How can our bishops stay so silent and unmoved? Why don't we believers more forcefully show our concern and our sadness?
The problem is serious but may be soluble. Do we have to stay «stagnant» in our way of celebrating the Eucharist, so unattractive to men and women today? Is this centuries-old liturgy the best one that can help us to bring to reality that memorable supper of Jesus where we so admirably concentrate the nucleus of our faith?