Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16
Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Here in this part of the world we have many phrases used when separating from friends. We can say, “see you later,” “Take care,” “be good,” “Have a good day,” and just “Later.” There are many others, of course. I propose a new one which has much to do with today’s celebration of the Body and Blood of Jesus.
In today’s First Reading, we hear Moses encouraging his listeners by recalling their having been taken care of by God in the desert. “Remember” he tells them how when things were worse, God did not abandon them but, “fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers….” Moses tells them not to forget the God who accompanied you with bread and water to make things not so bad.
The Gospel is taken from near the end of the chapter which begins with Jesus’ taking the five loaves and two fish, blessing them after giving thanks and distributing them for the satisfaction of many. His words to His Jewish listeners insult them and they question what this all means. Jesus does not make any excuses, but tells them not only is He the Bread of Life, but that they must eat this flesh and drink His Blood. These are hard words to apprehend, but Jesus is offering them an invitation to move deeper and trust more in the beyond, the seen, but not totally seen.
Jesus will say “farewell” at the Last Supper and from the cross. He does not invoke the usual terminating words, but offers a gesture which enacts His words and sentiments. Why did Jesus offer us His Body and Blood on the Cross? What is He saying to the Apostles and to us by offering His Body and Blood at the First Eucharist?
Moses and Jesus were saying in words and actions exactly what I propose to use as a new and more grace-filled way of saying, “good-by.” They were wishing, praying to their listeners, “Better.” I have been moved to say something more spicy, intimate, and of God, than even “God bless you.” I want to communicate that I personally am “better” for having been with you and I pray that you are “better” for having been with me. I desire that we go our separate ways more united, deeper, more sacredly along the road.
We are persons, individuals and no matter how close we are, we have to part for periods of time. We both go and want to stay with our beloveds, that is the nature of human love. So we could send each other with some little gestures, but always we would be saying, “I wish that what I am may go with you in a better way.” Jesus does this in His giving us His Body and Blood with the words and gestures calling us to a faith in His remaining lovingly with us, yet sending us to be “better.”
Jesus came and remains to give us life and to the fullest. This life is both earthly and eternal. By inviting us to be “better” He is asking us to be “deeper” not exactly that we should do this better or that more perfectly. Human life is full of the doubts of our Jewish ancestors who wandered, were tested, grumbled and yet called to be “deeper” in their trust. God sustained their life so that they would grow to be a holy and faithful people. This would be “more better.” God remained faithful by sending them bread and the Word of God which is “better” than earthly sustenance. Jesus offers us the same accompaniment by being Word and Bread. By His intimacy with us, He sends us with more than a wish, but a grace to be “better” in the living of His life within our own.
The Bread and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist is shared with us to send us beyond the simple reception of this gift. In a most wonderful way, as we leave having been blest by His “real Presence” we make our own prayer back to Him saying, “better.” “We are going to live the presence of Jesus in such a real way that You will be “better,” more revealed and so Your body will grow in the words and gestures of our lives.
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