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Eucharist, The Body of Christ

The readings today focus on the Gospel of Mark and his account of the Last Supper. The Eucharist takes its significance and meaning from these actions and words of Jesus. Eucharist for the early followers of Jesus was a verb and not a noun. In other words, Christians lived and gathered to do Eucharist, not to simply receive the Eucharist. Eucharist was and still is the action that identifies, unifies, and sends out all Christians on mission for others. 

For centuries Christians have struggled over the meaning and significance of Christ’s presence in the bread and wine. We have focused on the “how” and the “why” of that presence, that we have blurred the very meaning of Eucharist. Namely, Eucharist is the action that unifies all of us as the Body of Christ. At times, we have focused so strongly on the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine that we have forgotten the modes of the presence of Christ in others, in the Word, in those who minister to us, and in all of creation. 

The Second Vatican Council, in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum consilium 7), reminds us of these many presences of Christ in the eucharistic gathering. The implications of this statement are tremendously significant. Because Christ is present in others and in the Word in modes analogous to the way he is present sacramentally in the bread and wine, then we are challenged once again to be Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and not simply to receive the Eucharist. We are challenged to revere and tend toothers in the same way we revere and tend to the eucharistic Christ. Christ is actively and truly present in all. When we truly act upon this belief, we move toward becoming the healing, reconciling, and unifying community that is the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Taking Augustine’s dictum on the Eucharist might help us focus on what we are about. About Eucharist, Augustine is attributed as saying to those gathered: 

“Believe what you receive. 
Receive what you believe.
Become what you receive.” 

Yours in Christ, 

Fr. Gaspar Masilamani, CMF