The Nourishing Power of the Body and Blood of Christ
Genesis 14:18-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 9:11-17
The nourishing power of the body and blood of Jesus Christ is beyond imagination. It is something already attested by the saints, preached by the church and seen in our day-to-day spiritual activities.
As we celebrate the solemnity of the body and blood of Christ, the church reminds us of the true, real and actual presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
The gospel reading of today gives us a foretaste of the nourishing power of the body and blood of Christ when it says that after the feeding of the five thousand people today, they were all satisfied.
To nourish means to promote healthy growth and life. To nourish means also to do or provide what is needed for someone or something to be healthy and to grow and develop.
Therefore, to nourish a person, animal, or plant means to provide them with the food that is necessary for life, growth, and good health. Therefore, the body and blood of Jesus Christ is a food that sustains our spiritual life.
It nourishes our souls and satisfies our inner hunger. The Eucharist is the food that satisfies our spiritual thirst for God. It is food that helps us to stay healthy and spiritually alive.
Nourishment is what you get from the food you eat that helps you grow and stay healthy. Therefore, as Jesus satisfies the crowd today after feeding, He continually satisfies and nourishes our spiritual lives through His Body and Blood.
The Bread and Wine of Melchizedek and the Nourishing power of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
The First reading of today tells us how Melchizedek King of Salem, a priest of God Most High brought bread and wine and gave it to Abraham. He pronounced this blessing to Abraham saying:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth,
and blessed be God Most High for handing over your enemies to you.’ After this, Abram gave him a tithe of everything.
This first reading describes Melchizedek, as a priest of God Most High. He brought out bread and wine, blessing Abraham (then Abram). This was when Abraham returned after being triumphant in battle defeating Kedorlaome, and many kings who formed alliances with him.
It was in this encounter that Abram offered Melchizedek a tithe of a tenth of everything (possibly a tenth of everything he owned). After this, we did not hear about Melchizedek, in the entire book.
Then Psalm 110:4 recalls the memory of this priest-king of Salem when it says “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”’ (Psalm 110:4).” A few points that we have to derive in this encounter, especially in connection to the body and blood of Christ are:
1. The words used by Psalms 110:4 and Hebrew 7:7, “after the manner of Melchizedek” do not simply mean that Christ emulated the act of Melchizedek. Rather it connotes the priesthood of Jesus Christ which is eternal.
It also connotes that the priesthood of Christ, like that of Melchizedek, is a “priestly sacrifice. It is a prefiguration of the sacrifice of that altar in which we sacrifice today, in the form of bread and wine.
One of the great theologians of the Church Scott Hann says
…that when Christ instituted the Eucharist, That’s when he offered what appeared to be bread and wine. That’s when he became a new Melchizedek, feeding the new children of Abraham so that through Abraham’s seed, Jesus, all the nations of the world, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Dr Scott Hahn
2. When Melchizedek met Abram after his victory, the king came with bread and wine in his hands and a blessing on his lips. He began to pronounce blessings on Abram. This in a way depicts one of the four action processes of Jesus Christ whenever He wants to break the bread.
In all the places Jesus breaks bread, like in the gospel of today, Jesus pronounces blessings, He always says the blessing over them. This explains in one way the true meaning of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is from the Greek word eucharistia which means thanksgiving. As such, the Holy Eucharist is “an action of thanksgiving to God”.
It is derived from “the Jewish blessings which proclaim especially during a meal.
3. The mysterious priesthood of Melchizedek pointed forward to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. As Melchizedek gives bread and wine to nourish Abraham, Our Lord Jesus Christ gives his body and blood to nourish our souls. Through His body and blood, He ministers grace and mercy to us.
4. In the first reading, Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God and King in the land of Salem. Salem means peace.
In historical context, bread and wine were often associated with covenant meals. It means that the bread and wine given by Melchizedek are not only to show hospitality, it goes more than that. Let us remember that Abraham had the spoils that he brought from his war; so he did not lack food.
Therefore, bread and wine prefigure the nourishing power of the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine. Like the King of Salem, Jesus is the prince of peace. He is offering us His body and blood for the sake of peace.
Just as Melchizedek has no record of parents, having neither beginning nor end, Jesus is the eternal priest, whose priesthood and sacrifice prepare our souls for eternity.
These allusions will help us to understand the nourishing power of the body and blood of Jesus Christ and what truly happens when we eat his body and drink his blood.
The Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
The celebration of today is simply a profound mystery, that Jesus Christ is truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity under the appearances of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.
This belief is simply based upon the words of Jesus Himself when He instituted the Eucharist.
During the last supper, Jesus took the bread and said, “This is my body” ( Mt 26:26), and He took the cup filled with wine and said, “This is my blood” (Mt 26:28).
When Jesus said, “This is my body,” He was not holding a flesh, He was holding a bread but He declares that the bread is His Body, and the wine is His blood.
Secondly, Jesus uses the word “my” as a direct reference to Himself. “This is my body” is a direct reference to Himself. He did not say “this is bread” nor “this is wine”, rather He was actually calling the bread that He raises as His body, and the wine as His blood.
In essence, He is telling us that when we raise the bread and wine and proclaim that it is his body and blood, it is no longer the bread and wine that we see, there is now transubstantiation that happened during the time of consecration. The bread and wine that we raise are not bread and wine but the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
This is beyond scientific investigation. We take Jesus at His word because He is truth (John 14:6). He came into the world to testify to the truth (John 18:37), and the words that He speaks are spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus cannot lie or deceive us.
2. In John 6:51-58, He says “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven’ Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world. “I am” indicates who you are. So, by using the word “I am” Jesus makes a personal claim that the bread He raises is He, wholly.
In John 6:55, He says “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink”. That means the food is real. The food is not ordinary. Psalm 78:25 while referring to the manna calls it the food of the angels.
3. In Acts 2:42, 46, It was reported that the apostles in a spirit of communion continued the tradition, Jesus handed it over to them. In the second reading of today, Paul affirmed that He met this tradition and Jesus requested that this should be done in remembrance of Him.”
Paul says that what is received from the Lord, he is also passing to the future generation. Paul affirms that on the same night that Jesus was betrayed, He took some bread, thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’
In the same way, he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Then Jesus says that whenever we drink it, we do this as a memorial to Him.’
Therefore, this affirms the truth, reality and validity of the belief that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. When Paul says that every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we are proclaiming his death, this is what we do every day in the Holy Mass.
The Four Action Processes of Jesus and the Nourishing Power of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
There are four action processes that Jesus performs whenever He is breaking the bread. These four action processes are so unique to Jesus that it reveals to us the true meaning of the Eucharist.
These four action processes are: He takes, He gives thanks, He breaks and he gives. During the feeding of the five thousand today, Jesus takes the bread, He blesses, He then breaks the bread and also gives it to the people.
Jesus also performed these four action processes during the encounter on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13–32. During this encounter, the disciples of Emmaus were kept from recognizing Jesus but recognised Him at the breaking of Bread.
Bread is one of the most powerful symbols in Christianity. It is also a staple food that nourishes the body and gives strength to it. The Jews see bread as their daily staple food. Jesus uses It in the Lord’s Prayer. He says “Give us this day our daily bread.” It is a food that even the ordinary person can eat.
So, when Jesus takes the bread to give to the crowd, He is symbolically telling us that this bread which he is giving as physical food for many is also a spiritual food for many. It is not food only for some people.
Therefore, to give us this day our daily bread is a request for both actual and spiritual food. That spiritual food is the body and blood of Christ. It is the food Jesus gives for the nourishment of many.
2. Secondly, by feeding the crowd with bread, Jesus is revealing that bread is a gift from God. And when Jesus says “ am the bread that comes down from heaven, it means that Jesus is that gift given to us that we may have life.
In essence, the Eucharist is the source of life, grace, healing and spiritual strength. No wonder Jesus says in John 15:5, “cut off from me and you can do nothing”
3. Thirdly When Jesus multiplied the bread to feed the crowd, bread became a sign of sharing. Therefore, as we nourish ourselves with His body and blood, He also asks us to do the same to others. We have also to nourish the lives of others and be willing to share even that little that we have.
4. Fourthly, The bread was shared among the crowd. In essence, when we nourish ourselves with the body of Christ often, we become sharers of this divine grace to others. You become a moving tabernacle and a living witness of the gospel to the world. The crowd here represents the world. We share with the world, God’s divine life.
5. Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to His disciples. During the time of His passion, Jesus’ body was taken. He was broken and given for the sin of the world and hence became a blessing to the world.
In the same way, we must allow ourselves to be taken by God, give our lives to Him and service of God, then break through the sufferings and challenges that we may go through, and given for the service of God and others, by this we shall become a blessing. Therefore, let us participate in this bond that unites us with Jesus.
6. After the feeding of the five thousand today, it was noted that they all were satisfied. One significant thing about this is that it came from Jesus.
Therefore, The priest stands in persona Christi when he celebrates the Eucharist. When we receive the Holy Eucharist from the hands of Christ whom the priest represents, we receive spiritual satisfaction, we receive life, healing, grace and spiritual strength.
1. One adage says that we become what we eat. If we shall become what we eat, then the more we eat the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we become More Like Jesus.
We will develop that inner hunger to come close and relate with Him. When we eat the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we refresh our spiritual lives again. We become more holy.
This is when we receive Jesus with a sincere heart. Therefore, the nourishing power of the body and blood of Jesus Christ reflects also in the way we live our lives.
2. The celebration of the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper has great importance in the life of the early Christian communities. The fathers of the church saw in the bread and wine offered by Melchizedek a sacrificial offering.
Also, we see a foretaste of the Eucharist. It is also a prefiguration of the nourishing power of the body and blood of Christ.
We can see that in the second reading Paul reminds us of the truth and reality of the presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. By this, He is reminding us of the sacredness of what we are receiving.
Therefore, if the Holy Eucharist is sacred, it demands our respect and adoration. We do not treat the body and blood of Christ anyhow.
3. By sharing the bread today with the five thousand people, Jesus is giving the Jews one of their cherished and daily needed foods. It is like a perfect gift to the people.
This shows also that in the Eucharist, Jesus gives Himself totally to us as a perfect gift.
Therefore, if Jesus gives himself as a perfect gift to us, the implication is that we have to become also a gift to others. We have to allow ourselves to be used for the salvation of souls and in saving lives.
4. If the Body and blood of Jesus Christ are Holy and sacred, then we need proper disposition before we receive Jesus.
We have to purify our minds and hearts to receive Him. Many people have lost the sense of the sacredness of the Eucharist species.
Many Christians receive Jesus without inward preparation. In 1 Cor 11;27-30. Paul says whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have died”.
Therefore, let us purify our hearts from sins before we receive the body of the Lord. Be at the mass on time and make sure you are there before the priest says “brethren let us acknowledge our sins and prepare ourselves to celebrate this sacred mystery”, to prepare for the Eucharistic celebration of the day.
5. In the second reading, Paul reminds us of what Jesus says about his body and blood in the form of bread and wine. Then while referring to His blood, Jesus says “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial to me”.
Therefore, every Eucharistic sacrifice is a renewal of this covenant that we have with Jesus. Then we have to ask ourselves how faithful we are to this covenant? Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a bond of unity with Him.
Often we separate ourselves from Him through the wrong choices that we make, through our sinful lives etc. He gave us the Eucharist to build up His body but we often destroy this bond with our pride, selfishness and division. This is now a call to come together again.
6. Finally, to satisfy their hunger, Jesus nourished the crowd with bread. In the same way, to satisfy our physical and spiritual hunger, Jesus gives us His body and blood. We can experience the nourishing power of the body and blood of Jesus Christ on our spiritual journey.
The bread of life that Jesus gives, satisfies our deepest aspirations. The problem is that we often seek satisfaction elsewhere. We relegate the Holy Eucharist to seek satisfaction elsewhere. We seek satisfaction in material things, early pleasures and selfish desires, and relegate the Holy Eucharist. So, We have to know that our soul is in need. Let us nourish our souls.
May God forgive us. May He nourish our spiritual lives with his body and blood. Amen.