Hunger is a powerful force. On a physical level our bodies cry out in need of nourishment telling our minds that we need to eat. When food is not available the urgency heightens and the body starts to react. If the hunger persists and is not satisfied the body with time will begin to break down. A pain begins that longs for healing and satisfaction.
Hunger also expresses a need in our lives other than food. We hunger for things such as love, mercy, beauty, peace, justice and truth. The term “hunger” is used because of the association with physical hunger. The desire can be so strong, the need so strong, that when these things are absent we feel the pain and long for healing.
The trials and tribulations we are facing today as a nation and in the world speak to this hunger. One of the ways this is evident is the longing for healing in the face of racism. The damage is done when peoples are treated not as persons but as objects of a particular group. When prejudices lead to isolation, ostracism and violence, the human soul cries out in hunger for justice and healing. People long for and deserve to be treated with the dignity owed them as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.
All of us, as creatures of God, have a longing for God; a hunger for God. The desires for the good, for love and mercy, for beauty, for truth, for peace and for justice are present as well for they are all attributes of their source, God. The hunger is real even though, unlike physical hunger, it is not always readily recognizable. Jesus came into the world to help us to recognize, to understand and to satisfy this hunger.
Our celebration today of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ highlights not only the hunger but the way in which that is satisfied. To understand this we first have to recognize that the celebration of the Eucharist is the celebration of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. He offers himself in love of the Father and his people. After he gives himself completely on the cross, he is raised from the dead. The power of death and sin is destroyed by the Lord of Life.
In the celebration of the Eucharist we “remember” his passion, death and resurrection and are united with him. The particular aspect of this celebration which is emphasized today is that the glorified Jesus, the Christ, is present in a real way in the consecrated bread and wine which is now called the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Eucharist is a celebration of God’s love and presence among us. In the Eucharist, we remember that the longings of the human heart find satisfaction in and through Christ Jesus. Jesus says: “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
He then emphasizes: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” He who was called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us,” is here with us. He feeds us and nourishes us as we continue our journey, a journey that leads to him.
Through the Eucharist, he binds us together as one body, his Body, the Body of Christ. St. Paul, reflecting on this unseen reality, writes: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” St. Paul will say elsewhere that because of this communion, when one member of the body suffers all share in its pain.
Our nation is in turmoil and many in our community are hungering for love, mercy, peace, truth, goodness and justice. We gather today and go to the source of all good, the One who is the “Bread of Life.” We ask him to nourish us and strengthen us through this Eucharist so that we may, each one of us, work to strengthen our communion — by loving each other, by working for peace, by living in truth, by being good and seeking justice for all.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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