The Bible gives us many episodes of God feeding His people. In fact, the word food appears more times in the Bible than the word prayer. When God feeds us we have strength. When the Devil feeds us we are ruined. In the Garden of Eden, our first parents preferred the food offered by Satan and were condemned. Jesus, however, gave us the food of our redemption at the Last Supper. The Eucharist however, is not only based on the “Last Supper” that Jesus had with his disciples, but is also influenced by a long history of special meals celebrated by ancient Jews and early Christians, both before, during, and after Jesus’ lifetime. When God asks for the release of the Israelites from Egypt, it is to go and celebrate the Passover. On this note the Israelites shared the Passover meal before leaving Egypt (Ex12:1-28). This constituted their spiritual and physical strength on the journey. They were to celebrate this Passover meals annually, as recorded in Exodus 12:43-51; Leviticus 23:4-14; Numbers 9:1-14; 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8.
When they were hungry, they complained to God and he fed them in the desert with manna, quails and water. This gave them strength during the 40 years they spent in the desert. “The Israelites ate this manna for forty years, until they came to the settled land; they ate manna until they reached the borders of Canaan” (Ex 16: 35). The lives of King David and the Prophet Elijah tell us even more: When David was hungry; he ate consecrated bread with his men before continuing his expeditions. This instance gives us a hint on the spiritual preparation prior to partaking in the Eucharist: So the priest gave him holy bread, for no other bread was on hand except the showbread which had been removed from the LORD’S presence and replaced by fresh bread when it was taken away” (cf. 1 Sam 21: 4-7).
Elijah’s life vividly reveals a caring God, a God who feeds his people. When Elijah was to travel long distances at the time of famine God sent ravens to feed him and he drank from the brook (1 Kg 17:2-7). When the brook dried, God made a widow at Zarephat to feed him (cf. 1 Kg 17:8-16). Even when he escaped from the wrath of Jezebel, God sent ravens to feed him and this gave him the strength to travel for 40 days for his encounter with God: He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food; he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb” (1 Kg 19:2-8).
In the New Testament, God’s caring character comes alive in Jesus Christ. Jesus fed his disciples and a great multitude. He was even accused of being a glutton. He fed the 5000 in Galilee (Mark 6:30-44; Matt 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14). He also fed another crowd of 4000 people (Mark 8:1-10; Matt 15:32-39). All this was done with physical bread. From the episode of the feeding of the 5000 people in the Gospel of John chapter 6, a great Eucharistic theology is developed in which Jesus says that His Flesh is real food and His Blood is real drink. Put otherwise, we find in those episodes interpretations of the formal institution of the Eucharist in the Last Supper. Jesus left us a memorial of his life, death and resurrection. He ate the Last Supper with his disciples (Mark 14:12-27; Matt 26:17-30; Luke 22:7-39; cf. 1 Cor 11:23-25). He ordered his disciples at the Last Supper to break bread in memory of him.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus we strongly believe in Transubstantiation. This is the point at which the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine, but are changed in substance into the body and blood of Jesus. We know and believe in the real presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread for he did not mince words. From food, the Eucharist has become an element of Adoration. Because we adore Jesus and since we believe He is present in His body, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, then adoring the Eucharist means adoring Jesus.
Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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