Corpus Christie - June 2, 2024

When I was a child in Colombia, there were no bakeries in my hometown. Bread sold in stores came from the neighboring town. I remember the aroma of the freshly baked bread when it was delivered to my parents’ store. I once shared with you that my grandmother made her living selling fresh vegetables and fruit at fresh markets. When she could not travel anymore, she continued to get avocados to be sold by her at my parents’ store. The combination of a ripe avocado and fresh white bread was one of my favorite snacks at that time.

This week as I reflected on the feast of the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord, the childhood memory of bread came to mind. It is amazing that, by the power of God, simple bread becomes God himself in this most precious sacrament.

Last week I mentioned the bread of the presence that God ordered Moses to always have on a table alongside the Ark of the Covenant. Each Sabbath, the Lord’s Day in the Old Testament, twelve loaves of new bread were brough in to replace the old bread which was then eaten by the priests. The bread was a type of grain offering from the people. I would like to reflect on the meaning of the bread of the presence and the teachings we may draw from it which will help us understand the Mass.

The first thing to consider is that the offering was invented by God himself. The Ark of the Covenant and the bread of the presence were elements that would help the people offer worship to God in the Old Testament. The bread of the presence offering should be understood in the context of sacrifice. Sacrifices in the Law of Moses were symbols of an exchange that moved in both directions, though lopsided. There was a big difference between what the people offered and what God offered in return. This is still true today.

In the case of the bread of the presence, at first sight it seems to represent an offering by the people to God. And what the people offered to God was all they had and were, acknowledging that all they received from God was already a gift from him, the author of their being. Consequently, the real meaning of the bread of the presence was that it truly represented the gifts of God to his people. The people of Israel in the Old Testament received from God the bread of life. God gave them their very existence. The bread of the presence was truly the sign of God’s sustenance given to them throughout all its history. This is still true today. All we have is a gift from God.

It is important to keep in mind that God had no need of the sacrifices of Israel or anyone else. The truth is that we are the ones who have need to make an offering of ourselves to God through concrete symbolic actions, like offering sacrifice to God. And we do not need to invent the sacrifices we are to offer God. God himself invented the sacrifice, the holy Eucharist. At the Last Supper the Lord ordered the disciples, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22: 19).

Now the new people of God, the Church born in the New Testament, have a new bread of the presence, which is the holy Eucharist. The mass is both a sacrifice and a meal. As a sacrifice, there is also here an exchange with a big difference between what we offer to God and what God offers us in return. The bread and wine brought in the presentation of the gifts symbolize what we have and are. However, the Eucharist signifies the gifts of God to the Church. We receive from God almighty the Bread of life. God gives us our very existence. And the Eucharist is the sign of God’s sustenance given to us throughout the Church history until the end of time.

Let us humbly ask the Lord to grant each of us his grace, firstly, to offer faithfully the sacrifice of the Mass; and secondly, to come eagerly and joyfully to offer the sacrifice we must render to him for his infinite goodness to us.