Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Importance of the Eucharist
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you carrying a jar of water. Follow him. wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'" Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
How does one dare to speak of the Eucharist? It is hard to grasp the immensity of this rich, profound and generous gift of God to his children. Let me simply start with a statement from the General Instruction given to the church following Vatican II: “The celebration of the Mass … is the center of all Christian life for the Church” (General Instruction, No. 1).
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is remarkably hospitable; he loves to feed his flock. At the Marriage of Cana, the Lord turned six stone jars of water into surprisingly good wine. On other occasions, Our Lord miraculously multiplies the loaves and fishes in order to feed thousands of hungry followers. After the Resurrection, Our Lord grills fresh fish and invites several of the Apostles: “Come have breakfast.” All of these moments point in a most powerful way to the meal of all meals, the Last Supper and the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the greatest of all of Jesus’ gifts. In this sacred meal, Jesus pledges to pour out his life for us and to feed us with his very self: “Take it; this is my body … This is my blood of the covenant.” Jesus is our food for the journey, our nourishment for the narrow path to eternal life.
As Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus takes on our human flesh in order to walk our dusty streets, look us in the eye, heal us with his touch, preach with words we could understand, and die on the cross for us. Our Lord chooses to draw near; he offers a ministry of presence. Additionally, Jesus deeply desires to remain present to his flock until the end of time. He masterfully crafts a way to remain truly present (Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity) to his beloved disciples through the magnificent gift of the Eucharist.
As the Lamb of God, Jesus sacrifices his life for the flock and takes away the sins of the world. He lovingly and obediently surrenders his life to God the Father by his death on the cross to redeem the world from sin. Consequently, the Mass is also a sacrifice. When we celebrate the Eucharistic mystery, we are made present to Jesus in his paschal mystery, which includes the moment when Jesus commended his spirit to the Father. The sacrifice is not multiplied; rather, the one eternal sacrifice is made present in a real, yet sacramental way. Additionally, we are invited to unite all of the sacrifices of our lives — our trials, our pain and our burdens — to his one sacrifice, which is offered to the Father for the salvation of the world. “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
As Splendor of the Father, Jesus is a most grateful Son. He knows that all good gifts, even the most difficult and hard-to-understand ones, come from his loving hand. Jesus regularly paused during his day and activities to recognize the goodness of his Father and to thank him. At the Last Supper, Jesus offers deep, heartfelt thanks to God, fully aware that he was on his way to painfully lay down his life. The Eucharist, at its heart, is an act of thanksgiving, a sacrifice of praise, rendered to God the Eternal Father for every gift he has bestowed upon us, most especially for the saving and healing work of his only-begotten Son.
For these and many other reasons, the Eucharist is immensely important to Christians. Vatican II’s General Instruction goes on to say, “For the Mass is the climactic expression of both the action whereby God in Christ sanctifies the world, and of the worship that mankind offers to the Father as it adores him through Christ, the Son of God … All other sacred actions and all the works of Christian life are connected with the Mass, flow from it and are ordered to it” (General Instruction, No. 1).