We can now draw the practical conclusions of this doctrine for our daily lives. If at the consecration we too address our brethren with the words, “Take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood,” we must know what “body” and “blood” mean, so as to know what we are offering. What did Jesus mean to give us at the Last Supper when lie said, “This is my body?”
In the Bible the word “body” doesn’t indicate a component or part of a human being which, united to the other components, the soul and the spirit, forms the complete person. Our way of reasoning is influenced by Greek culture which, in fact, divided man in three parts: body, soul and spirit. In biblical terminology, and therefore in that used by Jesus and Paul, “body” indicates the whole human being in so far as it lives its life in a body, in a corporeal and mortal condition. In his Gospel, John uses the word “flesh” instead of “body” (“if you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of man ….”) and it is obvious that this word in the sixth chapter of the Gospel means the same as in the first chapter where John says “the Word became flesh,” and that is, human.
The word “body” indicates, therefore, the whole of life. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus left us the gift of his whole life, from the first moment of the incarnation to the very end, including all that had made up his life: silence, sweat, hardship, prayer, struggle, joy, humiliation …. Then Jesus also said: “This is my blood.” What else does he give us with his blood if he has already given us all his life by giving us his body? He adds death!
Having given us his life, he now gives us its most precious part — his death. In the Bible the term “blood” doesn’t indicate a part of the body, and therefore a part of a part of a person; it indicates a happening, death. If blood is the seat of life as was thought at that time (cf. Gen 9:4), the shedding of it is the plastic sign of death. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
The I Eucharist is the mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord, that is of the life and death of the Lord! And what do we ourselves offer when we offer our bodies and blood with Jesus at Mass? We offer what Jesus offered: life and death. By “body” we offer all that actually constitutes our physical life: time, health, energy, ability, sentiments, perhaps just a smile, that only a spirit living in a body can give and which is so precious at times. By “blood”, we express the offering of our death; not necessarily our final death, or martyrdom for Christ or our brethren. Death means also all that right now prepares and anticipates our death: humiliations, failures, sickness that cripples us, limits due to age or health, everything that “mortifies” us.
Because of the Eucharist there is no such thing as a “useless life” in the world. No one should say: “What use is my life? What am I doing in this world?” You are in the world for the most sublime of reasons, to be a living sacrifice, to be Eucharist with Jesus.
This Excerpt is taken from the book : The Eucharist Our Sanctification by Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. For more information about the book : Click Me!