We continue our reflections on the Luminous Mysteries. Today, we focus on the fifth and final Mystery of Light, which is the Institution of the Eucharist.
In this mystery, we recall how Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, sharing bread and wine with them and establishing the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. —Matthew 26:26–28
As I reflected on the meaning of this sacred meal, I recalled how I once experienced dinner at one of those Brazilian restaurants where servers walk around with platters of various meats, inviting diners to choose which ones they want to sample. As they approach, they identify what they are offering: maminha (sirloin steak), miolo da paleta (beef center cut), picanha (top sirloin), bife com alho (cut of beef), frango com bacon (chicken wrapped in bacon), sobre coxa (marinated chicken), and so on. They then await our response: yes or no, depending on what we think will most satisfy our hunger.
When we come forward at Mass to receive Holy Communion, a similar dynamic takes place. The priest, deacon, or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion identifies what is being offered to us: “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ.” Our response of “Amen” is our declaration that this is indeed the only food and drink that will satisfy our hunger and thirst. To say “Amen” to the Body of Christ is to acknowledge that, of all the options that life offers us, the Bread of Life is the only food that will satisfy our hungry hearts. To say “Amen” to the Cup that holds the Precious Blood of Jesus is to acknowledge that, of all the options that this world offers us, the Blood of Christ—the very life of Jesus—is the only drink that will quench our spiritual thirst.
I also thought of how, at restaurants, servers often respond to our food selection by saying, “Excellent choice!” When it comes to our spiritual nourishment, there is no more excellent choice than the Eucharist: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. True spiritual nourishment and fulfillment comes from no other source than the Living Bread come down from heaven. We are invited to celebrate the Eucharist as a way of acknowledging that, of the many choices we have for satisfying our hunger and quenching our thirst, only one choice is the “most excellent choice”—the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!
As Bruce Springsteen sang, “Everybody has a hungry heart.” The key is in how we attempt to satisfy our hunger and thirst. Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus instituted a meal as the key spiritual practice leading to satisfaction of human cravings? It is in this meal—the Eucharist—that Catholics find true nourishment and satisfaction for the hunger we all carry within.
The Bread of Life is indeed, “an excellent choice!”
Deepen your understanding of the Rosary by reading The Rosary: A Path into Prayer by Elizabeth M. Kelly and The Complete Rosary: A Guide to Praying the Mysteries by William G. Storey.