Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
When I first got married, I was clueless about food and cooking. My husband wasn’t much more skilled, and together our repertoire of recipes was a rotation of frozen pizzas, tostadas, and takeout. I once bought potatoes thinking I could find a way to use them but, not so surprisingly, they were promptly tucked to the back of the pantry and forgotten about. We quickly learned that forgotten food soon becomes rotten food.
A simple lesson in biology or life experience has taught us all the same. Living creatures don’t last forever. Whether it’s potato skins or a pet dog, there is a finality to everything we touch on this earth. And for some, this sense of finality creates disordered ambition and laws.
In the U.K., the world witnessed this when the judges looked at a young child named Alfie Evans and decided that since his physical body wasn’t functioning to their standards, he was better off not being a part of this world. And then Ireland overturned the ban on abortion. The human body is being treated like potato skins in modern culture. When its physical use or desirability has expired, it is disposable.
But as Catholics, we live a radical opposite truth which culminates in the Eucharist. The feast and readings this weekend are a powerful reminder that God deeply loves humanity in all our forms. The human body and its potential is vastly set apart from the rest of our passing world.
In the gospel, Jesus takes ordinary things that we are used to seeing consumed and disposed of after they are no longer useful: bread and wine. And he gives us his very self with them, making it the sign of the new covenant. He literally overturns everything we think we know of how things should work. The bread is now no longer just passing food that will eventually spoil. It becomes his flesh and our food from heaven. The wine is no longer a simple fermented drink but the blood of the covenant and the promise of our future in his courts.
On this feast, we have the antidote to the darkness in our world. The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ proves to us that the body is good by giving us his Body. Our call as disciples is to proclaim this boldly in a culture of waste that idolizes productivity. We have a God that is always with us under the appearance of bread! Bread which was once just for our bodies is now bread from heaven meant for our souls as well. We can clearly see that the body and soul have infinite value in the gospel today. God gives himself to us in a hidden and earthly way, a way in which we can easily be united with him physically every single week.
It’s a powerful reminder that God can and does take things that we see no real value in and brings about incredible good. The things that appear somewhat insignificant to us become the means of the new and lasting covenant we hear in the gospel today. Where the world says certain people have no value, Christ invites all to life with him. Where the world says that our bodies are our only measure of worth, Christ invites us to the banquet where our souls are filled. Where the world says broken bodies should be disposed of, Christ invites us to eat his flesh so our bodies can live forever.
As we seek to follow Christ, our challenge is to live the truth of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in everything I do. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1324) says that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life”. Everything we do should flow to and from that life source. Practically for me, this means looking at the small and hidden moments in my life and challenging myself to make them more true and eucharistic. The way that I treat my children, how I handle bills, and even the way I speak to the cashier at the store can all be moments where I affirm the truth that Jesus is with us in the Eucharist. If my source and life is truly Jesus, if I am really sustained by his Body and Blood, it is natural that there be good fruits of the Spirit in my daily life and in how I treat others. For me, it is a challenge to live counterculturally and go out of my way to partake in the Eucharist as often as possible. Everything I do can have eternal value if it is flowing to and from the heart of Jesus in the Eucharist.
On this feast, let us all reflect on the deep love God has for each and every person and commit ourselves to living in such a way that our lives reflect this truth. Our first step is by worthily receiving him often and making our entire lives more eucharistic by showing up to Mass with an expectant heart, going out of the way to find adoration, arriving at Mass early and staying a minute longer to adore Jesus, and living an intensely Christian life that is bold and radical and flowing from his Body and Blood.
This the truth each Christian learns,
Bread into his flesh he turns,
To his precious blood the wine:
Sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives,
But a dauntless faith believes,
Resting on a pow’r divine.
Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things are all we see:
Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.
Whoso of this food partakes,
Does not rend the Lord nor breaks;
Christ is whole to all that taste:
Thousands are, as one, receivers,
One, as thousands of believers,
Eats of him who cannot waste.
—excerpt from the Sequence at Mass