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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ The Real Presence of Jesus the Christ

Every time we come together for Eucharist, we begin our gathering in the same way.  First of we make the sign of the cross that represents the faith we share in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  That is what draws us together as one community.  Then the priest/presider will say:  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be/is with you all.  In response the gathered community will say:  And with you/your spirit.  What are we saying?

What the priest is saying is that in the gathered community we see the Real Presence of Christ.  The people’s response acknowledges that the same Real Presence of Christ is in the priest/presider as well.  As Jesus tells his disciples: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among you (Matt 18:20).  The Real Presence of Christ is not only under the form of bread and wine.  It is in the assembly around us as we celebrate together, walk together, share together and commit ourselves to sharing and sacrificing for each other.  We are the Real Presence of Christ for our world.

Sacrifice is often a hard word for us.  It presents us with challenges.  It forces us to make choices.  Yet, sacrifice also brings meaning to our lives and offers us opportunities to make commitments which are both meaningful and the way to fulfillment.  We humans are naturally disposed to sacrifice, for it is an expression of one of our most wonderful human traits – we are basically free.  We can make choices and even challenging, demanding choices and sacrifices for others.  It is often an expression of our love and relationship with others.

Sacrifice is what we hear of in Luke’s Gospel (9:11 -17).  There he tells the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves and two fish.  No matter how, it is a wonder.  Some would read this story literally, and in this way see Jesus using power to multiply a little available food so that there was enough to feed multitude.  Others might read it differently.  Perhaps it is a story with even greater meaning.

Luke’s story can be seen as revealing Jesus’ whole person and message as well as what Jesus is able to draw out of people.  Humanly, when we lack or have little, we sometimes draw back into ourselves to protect our own resources, whether that be food or time or energy or whatever.  We take care of ourselves.  But not always, often we make sacrifices reaching out to others, responding to need.

The 5000 are seated in groups.  Jesus takes the bread and fish, says a prayer of blessing, breaks the food up and asks the disciples to set it before the crowd.  What has taken place is very much in keeping with what Jesus often causes as he announces the Reign of God.  In the Reign, people look after one another.  People share what they have with one another.  Their care reflects God’s care and compassion.

The sacrifice we witness in our sharing of the Eucharist expresses a basic truth of our faith.  Eucharist is more than a sharing of Jesus’ physical body and blood.  In following Jesus’ call: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor.11:24) we imitate him.  And what Jesus sacrificed was more than his physical existence.  It was his whole person and life.  Eucharist is our expression of commitment and willingness to sacrifice for the Reign, to sacrifice for one another.  For we are the Real Presence of Christ for one another.  It makes us Church, a community drawn together by a shared faith.

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