This is my body that is given for you.

The following is an abbreviated version of the homily for Holy Thursday...including a reflection that points to Easter.

There is a kaleidoscopic quality to the Eucharist. You can look at it in many different ways and see something special from each perspective. I want to share with you some reflections on the Eucharist that look at it in different ways. My prayer is that you will find in one or another something to consider.


I knew a young father of two pre-teens, a girl and a boy. When chemotherapy and radiation failed to arrest the spread of his cancer and he knew that he would die, he made videos for each of his two children for them to watch for years after he died when they could more fully appreciate his love.

I never saw the videos…they were too personal…but he told me about them as he was preparing them. I know he told his children how much he loved each of them and how they each gave him particular joy. He spoke about the hopes he had for them and his promise of eternal care.

He left each a specific gift to treasure and to incorporate into their lives as a continuing reminder of his love even when he would no longer be there.

The Eucharist expresses that same heartfelt desire. It is Christ’s reaching out to each of us personally even when he is absent.   


Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (the second reading this evening) describes the institution at the Last Supper on the original Holy Thursday

The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

I imagine that Jesus’ disciples were a bit on edge and confused at the last supper. They had recently seen Jesus raise Lazarus. They had experienced his triumphant entry into the city. They were, together, celebrating the Passover, the greatest feast of God’s love for his people, Israel. But they had also heard him say that his soul was troubled and he had talked frequently about his death.


When he took the bread and broke it I don’t think he passed the loaf around, inviting each person to take a piece. Instead, he went to each person and handed it to them, individually. He looked each one of them in the eye and he saw not only their questions and concern for him but the potential for each one that he would nourish with the food and drink of himself.

Like the dying parent, his thought was on the hope for a bright future for resilience in the face of trouble, for a sense of self that recognized that both were one body as a parent and child.


The translations use the word “body” but the fuller meaning was that Jesus was giving his whole self to each person with all the care and hope of the parent who would not be otherwise present.


The institution of the Eucharist took part as part of the Passover meal of thanksgiving.  It was, and is a communal meal of Jesus and his closest friends. It is not a snack one eats alone. It was meant to be a shared experience…the very essence of church…in which we tell stories of Jesus.

One of those stories happened four days after the Passover meal on Easter Sunday, on the road to Emmaus. Jesus spoke to the hearts of his disciples, Then Jesus took bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them, and they recognized him

The breaking of the bread on the Road to Emmaus was the point at which his disciples recognized him as the resurrected Christ. The Eucharist is an anticipation of the final banquet with the resurrected Christ. It transcends time and space, to unite us with the perfect sacrifice, once offered.

It is Jesus’ own life, the life that God loved and definitively accepted once and for all.

It is God's most intense self-communication to the community. His presence among us makes us “the church”. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we may not recognize Jesus in his current guise, yet his presence and potential to touch our hearts will be real.


The Eucharist is also a mystery: something we hold as true, yet something we cannot fully explain or prove.

In that respect it is like love. There are signs of it… a ring, a kiss, flowers….But these are only signs, not the love itself. (As we know, Judas would betray Jesus with a kiss.)

Yet, here is the difference. Under the appearance of bread and wine Christ was and is present …he gives himself to each person so that they could be the best version of themselves, so that they could “incorporate”….the same love that Christ had for each one.

He said do this to remember me. We take that literally. To “re-member him…is to re-incorporate him. He invited us to embody him in our own lives….and become Christ incarnate.


I now want to look at the Eucharist as an incredibly valuable gift that invites study and investment.

Imagine that someone gave you an incredibly valuable gift of a Van Gogh painting, or a Stradivarius violin… with a condition that it was for you alone. You could not sell it or give it away.

You may not be a sophisticated art collector or expert violinist but you understand that these are significant gifts. You know that if you study the artistic background and technique of Van Gogh, consider his contemporaries, their influences, and the provenance of the painting, you would be rewarded with a great sense of joy at the expression of the beauty and the importance of the gift.

You would likely hang it in a place of prominence in your home. When friends came, you would discuss the beauty of it. You may even open your home on special occasions so the wider community could view and enjoy the painting with you.

If you invested time and effort in learning to play the Stradivarius well you would appreciate the silken sound of which it was capable. Even if you never became an expert you may be able to tell how much better the music was with this beautiful instrument.

To better enjoy the violin you might invite a noted violinist like Joshua Bell or Hilary Hahn to come and play… And you’d probably fill your house with others who you know who would appreciate it.

It would be a continual joy to use or share with others. When it was not being played, it would be displayed in a place of pride.


(On the other hand, you could ignore the value of the gift, deciding that it took too much effort to realize its value and park it somewhere out of sight in the house and fret about the cost to insure it…an untapped treasure. )

The Eucharist is also like that…. It is valuable, but to get full value from the relationship we have to invest in studying the person, Jesus, and practice acting like him.


In the eucharist, Christ made himself vulnerable to any one of us, who receive him, perhaps not being fully reconciled to him, being lazy about considering the gift he was giving, not appreciating the cost.

In giving us himself as the gift Christ gave us the potential for greater peace, understanding and love if we invest our own selves in appreciating the gift.

He was willing to suffer our careless reception, our distractions, our lack of further investment of time in the relationship…as surely as he suffered his death on the cross…to demonstrate both his love and the extent to which he would go to reclaim each person.

We approach the altar, humble in our self-awareness of our failings, and asking Christ to make us worthy of the gift.


As well as being communal, the Eucharist is also personal. It is God's "most intense" self-communication, to each one of us.

His focus is passionately on your life…as it was on the life of each of his disciples on that Passover evening. Christ comes to each of us to feed the God-given potential within us.

This tangible gift of God's self nourishes each person’s unique call to follow Christ. It is "the presence of Christ in time and space"

Like the dying parent, …whose heart aches to be present with each child through all the sadness and celebrations of life ... .Christ at the last supper made the gift of himself real to each of us to be with us.

As we approach the altar we welcome the hopes he has for us and the gift he has given us that draws him closer to himself…so we can understand who we truly are meant to be and to know… really know, that each person is deeply loved by this God who shares our human nature and truly wants the best for each of us. He gave himself to prove it.


Finally, I want to reverse the perspective…turn the camera around…in a manner of speaking.

At the last supper Jesus said This is my body that is given for you….This is my whole self, given to you

Imagine that these are your words back to Christ. What would it be to offer your whole self to Christ?

(I don’t mean as a monk or a nun but in your current context.) How would you make Christ the reference point of your life?

In fact the eucharist is a quiet invitation to do just this. It is the reciprocal gift that Jesus wants: that we live the fullest life that he has imagined for us, in God’s own image.

When you approach the altar this evening to receive this valuable gift of Christ’s own self, consider sincerely saying, “This is my self which I give to you” and making a firm commitment to let it be so.