At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 5, 2012 (18B)
By Father Cusick
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Every day, the world over, the Holy Mass is offered countless times and in varied places: from great cathedrals to humble churches and in the wild under the dome of the sky. In many places this awesome event is greeted with indifference. So many empty pews bespeak a lack of faith that God is truly present in the world in each Mass. How true it is that mankind has changed so little; many people are indifferent to Christ today just as they were when he walked the earth and shared our lives almost two thousand years ago.
Change begins with each of us as we grow in our knowledge and love of God's word among us in the proclamation of the Word and of His real presence in the "true bread from heaven" (John 6:32) as he describes the gift in today's Gospel.
At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread..." "He took the cup filled with wine..." The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, (Cf. Psalm 104: 13-15) fruit of "the work of human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine"--gifts of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who "brought out bread and wine," a prefiguring of her own offering. (Genesis 14:18; cf. Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 95. (CCC 1333)
In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God's faithfulness to his promises. The "cup of blessing" (1 Corinthians 10:16) at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup. (CCC 1334)
The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. (CCC 1335)
As we grow in our knowledge of the Holy Eucharist, we can grow in our thankfulness each time we encounter this wonder in the Liturgy. It is so easy to grow cold and indifferent toward Christ so humbly and mysteriously present. When we acknowledge the truth of Christ present we also affirm the reality of grace, the gift of God's very own divine life, granted undeniably to each of us "blessed to be called to the Supper of the Lamb." We must continually fan the flame of our faith through every means available so that, drawn to receive our Eucharistic Lord humbly and reverently, we may behold the miracle of our own lives transformed, made holy and happy, by this greatest of gifts.