I heard once that if you read the four Gospels with a highlighter, and marked every time Jesus touched someone to heal them, you would find that you highlighted something on just about every page. Touching was Jesus’ preferred way to heal people. He could have easily commanded someone to be healed from across the room, or even in the next town. And sometimes he did. But touching, there is something special about physically touching a person.
God knows deep down in the heart of us mere humans, his creatures, that we need the physical touch of another person. We crave it; we yearn for it. Often we don’t even realize it. A simple touch can make us feel less lonely, less isolated, less empty. A simple touch reminds us that we are human, that we are part of a community. It gets us out of our heads and back into our hearts. A simple touch reminds us that we need to be loved, need to be healed, need to be made whole and complete. Jesus touched people. He touched them where they were at. He touched them in their illness, in their brokenness, in their pain, in their joy, in their humanity.
That is what the Eucharist is and does. It is bread and wine transformed into his Body and his Blood, a body that was broken for us and blood shed for us, so that Jesus could touch us today, physically, where we are at, in our brokenness, in our pain and joy, in our humanity, here and now! Jesus touches us in the Eucharist just like he touched others two thousand years ago. And in that touching, Jesus can heal us, save us, love us, if we only open our hearts to him in faith and in hope.
It is no accident that Jesus chose an outward symbol of his inward grace to be bread and wine. His bread and wine, his very own Body and Blood, sacrificed once on the Cross, provides nourishment for us for the journey with him, back home to him and our Father in heaven. Jesus gives us his very self as food so that we may be transformed, to be Christified as it were, to give us everlasting life, and become his sisters and brothers in the family of the divine Trinity.
I heard someone once say that four words are found in the meaning of the Eucharist: receive, give thanks, break, and share. All is gift. God’s love is a free gift given unconditionally to us. We can only receive it. We cannot earn it. We cannot take it. We cannot demand it as if it was our right. We can only receive it. We can only receive his love. Taking is like stealing. It falls apart into nothingness. It’s a sin. We can only receive. God gives us his love freely, unconditionally, in the Eucharist. The very act of holding out our hands, our body position, is an outward symbol of receiving God into our hearts.
Because we receive, not take, it is only natural and honest for us to give thanks. That is what the word “Eucharist” literally translates into, “thanksgiving.”
Next is break, breaking the bread, breaking of the Body. We must break from our old selfish, prideful selves, break from our old masks, and turn to the new, turn toward God. “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5)
And finally, share. Sharing is about getting out of yourself and connecting to something larger than yourself. It is about connecting to God, about connecting with others, realizing that you are part of a community, a part of the Body of Christ, a branch of the Vine. It is about sharing all of God’s gifts of love that you have received with others.
The Eucharist—receive, give thanks, break, share. It’s all there, and so much, much more. It is “the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) Only through the Cross are we saved, transformed, and lead to communion with God. The Eucharist comes from Christ on the Cross. The Eucharist leads us to Christ on the Cross. The Eucharist is Christ on the Cross.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)