Today is the feast of the Eucharist, solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is an indication of how essential and central the Eucharist is to the life of the Church; as it is the central rite of our Christian worship. This feast is celebrated on the Thursday or Sunday following Trinity Sunday. The primary purpose of this feast is to focus our attention on the Eucharist. This was the purpose for which St. Thomas Aquinas proposed it, and it was in 1264 AD that Pope Urban IV established the feast and extended it to the whole Roman Catholic Church. Ever since then, every year we celebrate this great feast. The central place of the Eucharistic life of the Church goes back ultimately to that short periscope of the Gospel of Mark that we read today. We notice just how carefully Jesus prepared for that meal. He sent two of his disciples up ahead into Jerusalem to meet with a designated individual who would show them the room for the Passover meal with his disciples. It seems as if everything was well planned in advance. The attention to details suggest how highly important this meal is to Jesus. Significantly, at this meal he did something he had never done before at any of his previous meals with his disciples, being that this was the last meal he would have with them.
He took the bread and the wine (constant part of Jewish meal) and he blessed them differently; saying of the bread, ‘This is my body’ and then the wine, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many.’ By the means of them Jesus gave himself to his disciples under the form of bread and wine, and invariably to all humanity. Jesus was anticipating the gift of himself to humanity, which he would make on the cross of Calvary. As well as anticipating this great gift of himself on Calvary, what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper with his disciples was the culmination of his whole ministry, his pouring out of himself in love for disciples and humanity at large. That meal brought together in one moment all he had done as well as all he had yet to do, it looked back to the relatively recent past and to the imminent future. Being that the meal was a Jewish Passover meal, it also looked back to the distant past, to the first Passover, just before God led his people out of the slavery in Egypt. Jesus was now about to lead God`s people out of the slavery of sin. As the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews would say, “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from transgressions under the first covenant.”
Furthermore, Jesus` last meal which his disciples looked forward to the distant future, to the kingdom of God in heaven. At that meal, according to Mark, Jesus said, “I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Therefore, the last supper looked forward to the future heavenly banquet, at which people from all corners of the earth would gather. This was a huge significant meal when there was a unification of the past and the future, time and eternity, when Jesus expressed in very simple gestures and words the essence of his identity and mission. From the very earliest days, the community of believers (the apostles and the early disciples) gathered together to repeat what Jesus said and did at the last supper, in response to his command, “Do this in memorial of me.” They quite well understood that Jesus was saying in those words of command that he wanted this last supper to be, not just the last in a series of meals, but the beginning of a new series of meals. Thereby beginning the new era of the series of the meals in the new covenant which Christ Jesus himself established. Consequently, the last supper is the first Eucharist. As Jesus gave himself to his disciples at the Eucharistic Meal, the risen Lord would continue to give himself to his disciples at every Eucharistic celebration.
Through this Eucharist Meal Jesus entered into communion with his disciples. Invariably, at every celebration of the Eucharist, Christ Jesus enters into communion with his body the Church. Jesus today wants to enter into communion with us in the Eucharist. In saying to his disciples at the last supper and to each of us today, “Take and eat”, “Take and drink”, he is calling on us to enter into a personal communion with him. At the Eucharist (Holy Mass) we state that we desire to be in communion with the Lord and with all that he professes and values. We also state that we want to be in communion with each other, because there can be no communion with the Lord without communion with one another, and with all of creation. At every celebration of the Eucharist, we are making a profound statement about who we are, who we want to be and how we want to live. Every Eucharistic celebration, that is, the Holy Mass, is a renewal of our baptismal identity. This is lived out just as Jesus says to us at every Holy Mass, ‘Take, this is my body…this is my blood’, we say to him in response, ‘Take, this is my body, this is my blood. Here I am, I have come to do your bidding. I give myself to you and to all those whom you love, just as you give yourself to me and to all who come to you.’