Receiving the Eucharist as first, last, only

| Father Scott Carl | July 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

“Priest of Jesus Christ celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.” This saying greets a priest in the sacristy anywhere in the world of the Missionaries of Charity of St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Today’s readings reach out to those who hunger and thirst. The prophet Isaiah exhorts them to come eat and drink without cost. Indeed, he even implies that purchases they had made previously could not in fact satisfy. Like his hearers, we cannot purchase what we in fact need most. Rather, we need to come and listen to receive rich fare, to heed God’s voice in the obedience of faith and so benefit by the Davidic covenant renewed by a messianic figure.

It is this same figure who was referred to earlier in the Book; “he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted” (11:4). God has a special place for the poor. Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? The Missionaries of Charity, known for their charism of serving the poorest of the poor, recognize their own poverty before God and their own incapacity to meet the needs they encounter; they trust that the Messiah who has come will meet the poor in their deepest needs. The poor have real, felt needs for food, for a consoling touch, for God’s justice. Jesus expresses in the fourth beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (justice), for they will be satisfied” (Mt 5:6).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heads into hiding at the execution of John the Baptist while crowds who were hungering and thirsting for his word and healing touch found what they could not buy; they encountered the One who could provide that which satisfies. At hearing to where Jesus was going, they left without food and the pace they kept by foot had to consume whatever nourishment they had had that day — they beat Jesus to his destination, and he had taken a boat!

Their pace speaks to their hunger and thirst for that which they could not provide for themselves. The unfolding of this multiplication of the loaves passage shows clear parallels to the institution of the Eucharist (Mt 22:26-30). Indeed, the early Church would even refer to the Eucharist as “fragments;” the word used in this passage. However, most significantly, “they all ate and were satisfied.” Blessed are they who hungered and thirsted for Jesus, who is God’s justice; he alone will satisfy.

Yet, it is the future blessing communicated by the fourth beatitude that reminds us that even with all the heavenly food and healing touch the Eucharist conveys, we are still left waiting for its fulfillment. We feel that need for fulfillment at this time when it is so difficult to get to Mass! Moreover, how many have the felt need for true justice in a world riddled with brokenness and sin! When is the last time you received the Eucharist? I suspect you have hungered for it in ways you thought you never would. Given how precious it is to participate in holy Mass may we always ponder with great gratitude the last time we were able to do so and receive Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist. May that occasion lead us to hunger for the next time we will have the opportunity to have our felt need met by that which we cannot provide for ourselves. Let us adapt that saying for those in the pews: Faithful of Jesus Christ, receive this Eucharist as if it were your first time, your last time, your only time.

Father Carl is vice rector of The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul and assistant sacramental minister to the Latino community at St. Odilia in Shoreview. He can be reached at smcarl@stthomas.edu.

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Category: Sunday Scriptures