The Easter season and the Eucharist

by Malcolm Cornwell, C.P.

We are symbolic beings. We communicate love and meaning through symbols of word and touch.

Jesus gave himself to us in both these ways, by word and touch. To be fully nourished as Christian believers, we need both the bread of the Word and the bread of the Eucharist. To be sustained in life, we need both to hear and to feel the touch of love.

Our Table Story

Eucharist is much more than the bread of life Jesus gave to maintain his presence among us. Eucharist is the entire pattern of life Jesus intends for his followers. Eucharist is much more than liturgy; it is Christian life itself. The gestures of Jesus at table reveal not only what Jesus did with the bread he said is his body, they reveal the pattern of Jesus' interaction with the bread of our lives which makes us his Body the Church.

The EucharistJesus took the bread. Christ has taken the bread of our lives and joined it with his own. To take something is to lay your hands on it, to claim it for your own. Christ has laid his hand on us and claimed us for himself. He did this at baptism, and he continues to do this each time we recognize and reaffirm his call in our lives.

Jesus blessed the bread. Christ has blessed us with his life. Baptism was the first moment of that blessing. Every other moment of contact with Christ is an embellishment of that blessing. They can be prayerful moments of deep recollection or moments of life-giving contact with another person of faith. In either case they are moments of knowing the presence of the person of Christ, a presence which always brings blessing and comfort.

Jesus broke the bread. Like Christ there are moments in our lives when we feel broken. These are moments of loss or illness, moments of humiliation and hurt, moments of feeling our incompleteness, moments of loneliness, rejection, and of physical or emotional pain. Yet in these fractured moments Christ is present. Like the bread of his table, our lives are in his hands. Even when life seems to be breaking apart, we should not forget the lesson of a broken loaf of bread. It cannot be broken without being firmly held in both hands. When it comes to the breaking of bread or of our lives, both hold the challenge of the mystery of faith.

Jesus gave the bread. Christ was a giving person. He gave of his time and his touch. He gave encouragement but also challenge. He gave both Word and bread to feed and nourish. He gave most fully in giving himself. He gave till there was no more to give, declaring his life and work complete with the words, "Now it is finished" (John 19:30). Then bowing his head he handed over his spirit, the same spirit he gave us when he appeared risen from the dead. In life, death, and resurrection Jesus is a giving person. He has given us an example and challenges us to do the same. "Go and do likewise," is both a challenge and a commission. It is the commission to live the mystery of being bread blessed and broken for others.

The best response to this challenge I have yet to hear was the simple prayer of a little girl after her first communion:

"Lord, make me your bread, break me up and pass me around!"
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