But now it was getting dark, and his close friends, those who were always with Him, started getting worried. These people must be getting hungry, and there were thousands of them. There was no point of keeping them there any longer. For, as the French author Jean de la Fontaine once said, “a hungry stomach cannot hear”. So, they asked the Master to send everybody away to try to find where to buy something to eat.
But that was not the way of the Master. Sending them away to fend for themselves was never part of his logic. So, he does the unthinkable. “You give them something to eat”, He tells these disciples of his, even though He knew quite well that they could not possibly provide for such a big crowd. Five loaves and two fish would hardly make a snack for them alone! Yet, for some reason, they obey when He tells them to start handing whatever they had to the crowds. And all had their full share, and there was plenty left.
On another evening a few months later – it was a Thursday evening, to be precise – Jesus was again with his disciples. This time the crowds were not there. This was to be a special day for all of them, a day of great intimacy never to be forgotten. Once more Jesus takes the bread, looks up to heaven in thanksgiving, blesses, breaks and distributes the bread. This time however, some very special words accompany these gestures: “Take this, this is my body” – followed by “this is my blood”, referring to the wine of the chalice he gave them afterwards. All this is followed by a special command: “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Interestingly, as we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church offers us the first episode cited above, rather than the second one, as Gospel for today’s Mass. The disciples listen to the words of Jesus, which defy all logic. And unimaginable things happen.
During the Last Supper of Holy Thursday Jesus once more tells his disciples to do something. They are not meant to be spectators or mere recipients of what is being given. As disciples, they are to walk in the Master’s footsteps. What the Master did there was not a simple sharing of a meal. He was giving his own body, pouring his own blood. “Do this” did not refer solely to the breaking of bread, but also to what it implied: the total giving of oneself to others. What Jesus did sacramentally on Thursday evening, He repeated on the following day from the cross.
This is what we are living out every time we celebrate Eucharist. During Mass we listen to those words, over and over again: “do this in remembrance of me”. That is the command I am expected to live in my daily life, as I leave the Church building after Mass. What I celebrate in Church, I am called to live outside of it. “Do this” is asking me to give my life to others, without holding anything back, irrespective of who the “other” might be. Otherwise, my celebration would be a contradiction.
Humanly speaking, this might be difficult to do. Not unlike what happened in the first story, doing what Jesus is asking me to do sometimes defies all logic. But it is worth taking the risk. The results might surprise us.