In the Gospel of Matthew Account, of the Institution of the Eucharist, in chapter 26, I want you to note how the evangelist counts four specific actions that were made at the Last Supper, the First Mass.

During the Last Supper, Jesus TOOK the bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it, and SHARED it with His friends. 

Jesus Took Bread. Jesus Blessed Bread. Jesus Broke Bread. Jesus Shared Bread.

Here is a teaching homily from me on what the four words mean in Matthew’s carefully written Institution narrative of the Eucharist—of the Great Self-Offering Gift of Jesus.

Took. Jesus took. Jesus took bread.

Jesus took an existing thing that all the Jewish apostles and disciples knew about—the Passover meal—and He made it His own. He took it for His own purposes. It had been a rite for remembering the Exodus of long ago time for the Hebrews. It had its day to be done on the calendar. Yet Jesus was showing that He took this rite to not only point back to God’s blessing of old, in respect of that (and it was something He saw in history as the Son of God pre-Christ), but Jesus also took and communicated by it to what God was doing in their present, and for the future. Jesus took bread—the bread of offering of a Jewish religious feast—and He made it part of the New Covenant of God in  Himself to the world. An eternal offering even!

Jesus did this sort of thing a few times. He took and changed or updated something meaning. He radically updated or reformed it. For example, not just with the Passover rite, but He also transformed the Feast of Tabernacles (in what He did in the Transfiguration) and, as well, to the Feast of Pentecost or Weeks (by taking it much deeper and further and power-packed in the inauguration of the Spirit to be poured out into the Body of believers). Here’s one more: even in Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple (as a babe) did God use that to transfer the Glory of the Lord as from a special building (Jerusalem’s Wonder of the World Temple) to be now shown to be present in a special person. Jesus was the Temple now.

Here’s one more thing Jesus “took” to make new and saving. Even in the Good Friday moment of Jesus. He became a Lamb sacrifice in the hours of the Jew’s Lamb sacrifice, in their symbolic gesture to put sins onto the lamb or animal, but on that very Passion time of A.D. 33, which was the blood of the lambs day of the Jews, Jesus became the saving Lamb of God… and He did it near the Jersualem mount place where Abraham had once found an animal sacrifice to substitute for his son, but was told God would truly give his Son as sacrifice. Jesus took all this history of the Jews and became its fulfillment. Jesus took it to be fulfillment. In Himself: The long awaited Messiah!

Blessed. During the Last Supper, Jesus TOOK the bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it, and SHARED it with His
friends.  Blessed.

The elder Jew (male head of the household) in every Jewish household would bless the bread on the Sabbath eve, as well as on every holiday. It is a Jewish tradition of the elder man or rabbi (holy man) to bless the bread and wine. The woman elder,meanwhile, blessed the candle. At the Passover meal, as written of in the Gospel, Jesus was doing the traditional prayer of the meal, but He was taking it a very large extra step, in making Himself as the Sacrifice in the Bread, the Holy offering, as well as the Victim, and its perfect prayer of embodiment!!

We know the likely words Jesus used. They were. “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olamBlessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, Then with the bread—He adds–Who brings forth bread from the earth.Then with the wine—who creates the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth… Who creates the fruit of the vine.

At Mass today, it is still a blessing that is done. It is why the priest does this prayer, either aloud or quietly. He makes the action of a blessing, but in pointing toward, by His Holy Orders, of a much higher Reality, that, Jesus makes a blessing on the bread, and wine. Jesus blessed. So now we need to invite Jesus blessing in our worship time. All of this need of blessing was understood in the early church, as In 1st Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul (who is Fr. Paul, or Bishop/Apostle Paul, as it were) addresses the community in the subject of the Eucharist with these words: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?. Paul is speaking of Real Presence, not symbolic stuff there, and it is what the Catholic Church has held to for 2000 years. Real Presence, out of a Real Blessing of Christ Jesus Who reigns.

Broke. Jesus broke. Jesus broke bread.

During the Last Supper, Jesus TOOK the bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it, and SHARED it with His friends. 

In the same teaching in First Corinthians, Paul goes on to say: The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” Paul later reminded the Corinthians of the night in which Jesus first instituted this Sacrament, saying, “the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). Jesus is talking covenant language here. In his self-offering, of His own body to be given, broken, pierced, sacrificed freely— it is in the breaking in how the worth of the bread is measured. The breaking is of Christ! His breaking makes this Act a unique one, to stand out for all time, to be in memorial. A Living Memorial, as we say.

Because this memorial supper has the part that Christians are commanded to do an actual breaking of bread, the expression “to break bread” was used in reference to the Eucharist in the early church. So we need to break the bread in the Mass. It is done in the Liturgy at the Lamb of God. Specifically done there for many reasons. It is accompanied by very specific prayers, as the same ones done by Jesus that Last Supper night. Priests say them carefully and slowly, and the whole Mass comes to a pause for attention and focus.

(It is why I liked the bells or chimes at communion in some former parishes. It rings out consecration time, the Visit by the Holy Spirit time. And some parishes ring the bells at the breaking of the large Host, too, to emphasize the moment, in tandem with the elevation consecration times. Jesus broke the bread, It is a key moment in history. And each Mass remembers it so.)

This key part of Christian worship was written down in the famous “Didache” document of AD 70. “Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the EucharistThat’s the Catholic Church speaking in AD 70 folks.

It’s time that I get to the fourth word.

Shared. Jesus shared.

This action in the early Church was believed to be a real sharing of Jesus from Heaven, in saying that He can now do things for us from His place of reign there, in such a special way, and truly even be shared miraculously. It is not just a passing of a loaf and goblet of wine we do, or simply have an emotional moment in church, it meant so much more a sharing. Again, in the early Church, they explained it in their writings. Here’s a line from A.D. 373.

“You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, (as in the Church), then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body.” St. Athanasius said that in a sermon to the Newly Baptized in. 373). I thought I’d share that with you! Athanasius, who helped write the Creed of the Church, says that Christ’ Body is shared. Because Jesus Body is Risen, Ascended, and Glorified—He can give it to us. Share it. And the Mass is where you may receive what He is sharing. Amen.

It is a sharing of Christ as Sacrament from Him as the Precious Lamb of the High Altar in Heaven. Described in Revelations.

Sharing takes a receiver. We need to open up our mouths or hands to receive Eucharist. In the hand motion of the Body of Christ, imagine you have written on your palms: Use me. Fill me. Share Yourself with me.

The sharing of a meal can be a big deal among beggars. As many a saint has said: We are all beggars to the Lord. So, what a wonder to share a table with Christ?!

The sharing of a seat or place can be a big deal, too, as Jesus is sharing a place at His table for us. At a graduation last week, seating was a premium. I saw a very crowded bench stand get scrunched in for just one more added person, an elderly guest, maybe a great grand dad at the graduation. People shared precious space with him, realizing the effort he had made to be there.

God has made some precious space for us. Hasn’t He? Are you responding in thanksgiving and fidelity to His Grace?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *