Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover? He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Reflection, by Fr Aldo, sx
Many people reduce the Sacrament of the Eucharist to a sentimental encounter with Jesus, as way of feeling very close to him and, consequently, praying with more devotion and, above all, to get from him special graces. This is a real distortion of its true meaning.
In order for us to grasp the deeper value of the Eucharist we necessarily have to refer to the “Old” Covenant: At the foot of Sinai, Israel became an ally of God. That covenant had earthly objectives and helped the people to obtain the Lord’s protection as they strove to conquer their land, fight against their enemies and have abundant harvests.
The “New” Covenant sealed with the Eucharist does not have such objectives, but envisions a community of people willing to become one with Christ. All those who eat from his body and drink from his blood become part of Jesus Christ and form a new people, a new humanity that has as law the service for others, to the point of giving totally one’s own life. This is what should happen to all those who come to receive communion. It is a commitment taken before the whole community to serve the brothers and sister up to the point of shedding one’s own blood. That’s why St. Paul exhorted the Christians in Corinth to thoroughly examine their hearts if they really have this inner disposition before approaching the Eucharistic table. (1Cor 11:28-29)
To receive communion with faith is neither just about believing in the “real presence” nor getting lost into reasoning exercises, but to take decisions that lead to attitudes of love and fidelity too Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, the Eucharist was not instituted for the benefit individuals so that each one can have a personal encounter with Christ, so favoring individualism and spiritual isolation. In fact many still interpret it in this way. The Eucharist is always the food of a community. The bread is to be shared among brothers and sisters because the community is the sign of the new humanity born out of Christ’s resurrection.
The blood of Christ is shed “for you and for many,” meaning for all. Thus, every human person has the right to be welcome in the community. For God there is not such a thing as people pure and people impure, inferior races and superior races, tribes with dignity and tribes without dignity. All people are equal and all are called to enter in full communion with Christ. Those who do not accept this universality, those who are racist and defender of tribal privileges, those who go around classifying and separating the good from the bad, loving some and condemning others… these have not yet understood the essence of the Eucharist.
Why is the Eucharist not like the Baptism? While we have to participate in the Eucharist as often as we can, the Baptism we receive only once. It is because every time we take part in the Eucharist we renew, strengthen and fulfill the big YES pronounced on the day we were baptized.