The Eucharist as a Meal and the First Thanksgiving

I was reading through a few tweets the other day and came across a comment someone sent to Pope Francis.

@Pontifex If you do sincerely have a daily relationship with God, why does a showy hour on Sunday matter?

I would like to address this question as a Catholic if I may, comparing that “showy hour on Sunday” to the Divine Liturgy, a mass.

First of all, everyone is called to a personal relationship with God. Opening up daily communication with Him is necessary in strengthening the bond between Father and child. Any human relationship will suffer if no communication exists. Merely attending weekly mass or service is like doing the bare minimum to keep a relationship alive. How can we possibly imagine spending an eternity with God if we can’t communicate with him every day? So yes, a daily relationship with God is a must. However, let’s not think that we are the center of attention and dismiss our “showy hour on Sunday”. That hour is about family. We use that hour to gather as a community, sharing our weekly struggles, joys, successes, and failures. We are invited to a family dinner where we are united with our earthly and celestial family. God is both the banquet host and the meal to be consumed.

What is a meal?
Let’s face it, we love to eat. Food has become more than nutrition to us, it is about the shared experience with others. A good meal can brighten our mood, boost our energy, and overall provide us with tasteful pleasure. Food is what sustains our natural bodies. It is essential in every culture and acts as a focal point of gathering. The Japanese have a poem about the importance of rice in their community.

Rice is the symbol of our life. We eat rice daily. There are different kinds of rice, but we are one as the rice eating community. Rice is the symbol of celebration. We express our joy of harvest with it. There are many sufferings in Asia, but we anticipate the time of cosmic celebration.

The Japanese depend on rice for it is a symbol of who they are as a community of people. This is what is offered to us at mass and why it is more than just an appearance. We are showing up for a meal, but a particular meal that sustains our spiritual life. We consume the very body and blood of Jesus, the bread of life. This is not a mere symbol, but the real thing. So often we become indifferent to the true value of food, especially our spiritual food.


 While food provides us with great satisfaction, we often forget its ultimate purpose, nourishment. How often do we stuff our mouths full of turkey, hand mixed mashed potatoes and Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving? We eat like we've never seen food before. Too often are we like Emile from Ratatouille, shoving the food in and becoming indifferent to its real taste. We need to be more like Remy who chews slowly, appreciating every morsel and opening himself up to the rich flavors within.

We can also be in different to the Eucharist, snatching the bread from the hands of the Eucharistic minister, leaving mass directly after, and never saying a prayer of thanksgiving. We shove the Eucharist in to fill ourselves with a sense of duty rather than fill ourselves with the source and summit of our existence. You could consume the Eucharist every day for forty years, but never once taste its divine flavor.

We look to the Israelites in the Book of Exodus who after only a month of departing from Egypt complained of their hunger. They reminisced of the good o’le days of slavery where they could have their fill of meat and bread, even though shackled to Egypt.
“The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!” (Exodus 16:3).

God heard their cries and rained down Manna, bread from heaven, and quail to feed his people. Yet, the Israelites were still unsatisfied. They ate the Manna to nourish their bodies, not their souls. It wasn't long after this that they all abandoned God and started worshiping a golden calf. They became indifferent.

Now flash forward to Jesus in the Gospel of John. After Jesus fed the group of 5,000 people he crossed the sea in the middle of the night. The people woke up the next day freaking out that Jesus was gone. They sought him out and crossed to Capernaum looking for him.

“And when they found him across the sea they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ Jesus answered them and said, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not
because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (Jn 6:25-26).

And a little later he explains…

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living
bread that came 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” (Jn 6:48-51).

Jesus addressed them about their first meal, the Manna. Now he gives them the main course, his own body. The Manna was meant to nourish the physical bodies of the Israelites in preparation for the Promised Land,a land flowing with milk and honey, and the Eucharist is now meant to nourish our souls in preparation for eternal life, a wedding banquet.

True Hunger
It all comes down to whether we are truly hungry. Having a daily relationship with God is a great thing, but we cannot think that that alone is enough. God wants to feed us with his own body not just every Sunday, but every day. There is always a mass going on around the world. The sacrifice of Jesus is constantly being commemorated and his body continues to be broken for us so that we can journey through the desert of our life circumstances. Jesus is offering to satisfy the hungriest parts of our soul, the despair, doubt, and hurt, but what are we truly hungry for? Are we going to Christ to be fed or do we look for alternatives? Jesus offers us a grand feast at a wedding banquet and many times we turn to the dumpster.

Mass as the “showy hour on Sunday”
“When we eat natural food we change the food into us, when we eat the Eucharist its Jesus changing us into him.” – St. Augustine

Jesus wants to feed us as a family. When we consume the Eucharist we are uniting ourselves not only to Him, but to each other. Think about it, the Eucharist was established at the Last Supper, but as the first Thanksgiving. Eucharist means "thanksgiving". It was prepared for the Apostles on Passover. Jesus consecrated the bread and the wine for them and they all ate together. Later he would give up his body on the cross and act as the sacrificial lamb that was to be slaughtered and consumed at every Passover. The consecration of the bread and the wine would forever be the Sacrament that would feed all his children with his very flesh and blood, sustaining one’s spiritual life.

The mass is an anticipation of the heavenly banquet that awaits us. We are called to attend, participate, and consume “Thanksgiving” itself. That “showy hour on Sunday” is so much more than what it is given credit for.

“We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way, adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God no longer simply stands before us as the One who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world.” (Benedict XVI, Homily at Marienfeld, Twentieth World Youth Day [August 21, 2005])

Our Community
What would our poem look like if we took the Eucharist seriously as Christians?

The Eucharist is the symbol of our life. We eat the Eucharist daily. There are different rites of Mass, but we are one as the Eucharist eating community. The Eucharist is the symbol of celebration. We express our joy of harvest with it. There are many sufferings in the Church, but we anticipate the time of cosmic celebration...the wedding banquet!

That “showy hour on Sunday” is our true Thanksgiving Day. We gather our families and eat a meal prepared for us by our heavenly Father. We do not need to over eat because God knows exactly what we need to be filled.

                 Not buying the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? 
                                      Click here for better answers

Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment