What does it mean to break bread together? or to share a cup?
In our reading from Genesis this Sunday, the priest-king Melchizedek wants to befriend the nomad Abram. His first step is to bring out bread and wine. Blessing Abram and God alike, Melchizedek informs Abram that it is God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, who graces him. And that relationship, as Psalm 110 reminds us, is forever – a faithful connection of relationship established between God and God’s priest-king, the ideal of whom is, of course, Jesus himself.
Jesus, too, breaks bread with others, participating in commensality as a way of teaching others to go forth and do the same, to be bread for one another. He does this first, in Luke’s Gospel, in the feeding of the five thousand, taking the five loaves and the two fish, saying the blessing over them, breaking them, and giving them to his disciples – precisely the order of events we experience in Eucharist, at Mass. Jesus also breaks bread with his disciples at the Last Supper. In 1 Corinthians, Paul gives the community of Corinth the formal words of institution that Jesus used there: This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. Christ, Paul suggests, continues to transform us and the world in the body and blood he shares with us – we are not only remembering the past, we are experiencing Jesus present with us in the moment, and we are sharing a hope for the future, a hope that we too will one day be seated at the messianic banquet. In Eucharist, we are transformed.
When we participate fully in the Mass, Eucharist gives us grace and challenges us to go forth with new knowledge from our history to build God’s kingdom now, with our lives. Everything we are flows to Eucharist, and everything we are flows from Eucharist; Eucharist is where God is most present and real to us as a Christian community. Sharing the same bread, the same cup, thus represents a moment of intimacy, the intimacy of Eucharist, the intimacy of Thanksgiving – and when we are sent forth, transformed, we are to become what we have received: bread for the world.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.