Letís play with our imaginations
 for a little while

Imagine if you were present at the Last Supper. The table would be U-shaped to allow waiters and waitresses access to everyoneís place. The table would be 18 inches high, so you would not sit on a chair, but siton the floor. You would eat with your hands; people in Palestine at that time did not use knives and forks. The meal would consist of lamb and various herbs, plus bread and wine. What an honor to be sitting at the same table with Jesus, yes? What would you say? How would you feel sitting in Jesusí presence? Ö

At one point in the meal, Jesus would take the bread and wine, and say successively, "This is my body, take and eat it. Ö This is my blood, take and drink it. Do this in memory of me." Wow!!! Knowing what we know now, makes this easier to grasp, but some of Jesusí disciples, not the apostles, said, "This is a hard saying. Ö

From day #1, the Catholic Church has held that the eucharist is really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas offered the word "transubstantiation" to explain that at Mass a change in substance occurs from bread and wine to Jesusí Body and Blood. A change in substance means that although the bread and wine continue to look, feel, and taste like bread or wine, by the power of Jesusí words spoken in the consecration, the substance is changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Three hundred years later, Martin Luther offered his theory that the substance of bread and wine, and the substance of the body and blood of Christ co-exist simultaneously; that both substances were present, hence, Lutherís term, "consubstantiation." Within a few years other Reformers offered other interpretations of Jesusí words, namely, that either the eucharist was just a symbol of Christ, or just a memory of Christ, or just present during Mass but not afterwards.

Now, thanks be to God, 500 years after the Reformation, which broke the delicate unity of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant theologians now exchange fruitful discussions about the meaning of Christís eucharist. The dialogue is making much headway. Please God, someday, the Christian Churches will be united in their teaching and liturgy about Christís Word and sacrament. Regarding the eucharist, the Catholic Church teaches that the Body and Blood of Christ is really, truly, present; the eucharist is not just a sign, or temporary. Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus.

When you receive the eucharist, how does the experience of divine life within you impact you? Ö I hope it comforts you, strengthens you, empowers you with participation in the divine life of Jesus. The gospels and the tradition of the Church refer to the eucharist as the bread of eternal life, bread of heaven, holy communion with our Lord. Ponder the effect of divine life within you. Ö You never stand alone. Let Jesusí promise, "I am always with you," resound in your mind and penetrate your soul.

In todayís gospel, Jesus feeds 5000 men, plus women and children. Reflect on Jesusí compassion that the people needed rest and sustenance. Reflect on Jesusí generosity that not only does he feed them but afterwards his apostles pick up 12 baskets full of surplus bread. What are your needs? With confidence, call upon Jesusí compassion for you, and his generosity in responding to you.

In the book-racks of your pews are located the Breaking Bread songbooks. Would you take them out, please, and turn to the inside back cover. You will see at the top the two hymns that we sing at Benediction. These hymns were written by St. Thomas Aquinas.

If you would follow along with me, please, as I read aloud and comment on these hymns. Weíll begin with the English translation of O Salutaris Hostia. Ö In the first stanza, we sing that we suffer with Jesus Christ, and in the second stanza that we look forward to rising to eternal life. In the Tantum Ergo, we profess in the first stanza that the Old Testament era has given way to the New Testament times; and that while we canít see, touch, or taste anything different about the bread and wine, our faith tells us that Christ is present. The second stanza praises the Trinity, and thanks God for salvation and the blessings with which we have been blessed.

At age 44, two years before he died, Thomas Aquinas experienced the Beatific Vision of Our Lord in heaven. So awesome was this experience that the brilliant Thomas laid down his pen and never wrote again. This experience transcended anything that he could ever write about God. He spent his last days, praying before Christ on the cross and in the Eucharist. Let us spend a few minutes now, praying before Jesus on the and in the Eucharist, and praising God for the gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus.

Read other Homily by Father O'Malley