Last Sunday, in my homily on the Trinity, I shared how when I was studying in our Jesuit university in Manila for my priesthood, some 25 years ago, a Singaporean family who lived in an HDB flat willingly and without persuasion sent me $1,200 for the desperate need of Maribeth a two year old baby girl who was dying, and whose family was too poor to afford any medical expenses. This family, whom I call the Wong family (not their real name), decided to part with their hard earned savings, for a baby that they never even met or knew. They said that they were willing to share the little they had for Maribeth because she needed their help desperately, and they were happy to live a simple lifestyle. What I did not share in my last week’s homily due to the shortage of time was that eventually, Maribeth caught a fever and died.
If Maribeth had come from a rich family who could afford the medical expenses, I have no doubt she would not have died. Maribeth is only one of the millions and billions of other “Maribeths” in the world who are too poor to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and have to die mercilessly and tragically, by the thousands daily in the world.
Within such darkness in the world, there is also light; our world is not only filled with darkness and sin. There are the good and compassionate people like the “Wong family” in my true story who cares enough to make the needed sacrifices for the sake and good of other people, regardless of whether they know them or not.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the most human thing to do in life is to give the gift of ourselves to others out of love for them. But, the greatest human thing to do in life is the gift of ourselves to others out of love for God. The giving of ourselves to others out of love for God is the greatest human thing to do because this is what God Himself has first done for us; He Loved us into our existence; He first Loved us and continues to Love us, even as we continue to disappoint and disown Him through our sinfulness.
In Jesus’ infinite Compassionate Love for His Disciples and us, at the Last Supper, as He knew that His time of Suffering and Death has come, He transformed the Jewish Passover Meal into the divine Gift of Himself for His Disciples and for all humankind. Jesus knew that He would soon have to suffer the cruel and torturous Death of being Crucified on the Cross as a criminal even though He was innocent and only purely served for the good and Salvation of all peoples. Jesus knew that in His Death, He would physically depart from His Disciples and believers. And, even as He is to Rise from His Death on the third day, He would still be physically absent in this world when He ascends into heaven.
In the light of this reality, Jesus at the Last Supper gave His Disciples the gift of Himself in the form of Bread and Wine. This is so that when His Disciples were to receive the Bread and Wine which He blessed and transformed into His very own physical Body and Blood, they would receive the gift of Him; not only as a token or a sign of Him, but truly His real physical Body and Blood.
In today’s Gospel of St Mark, Jesus took some bread, blessed the bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take it, this is My Body.” He then took the cup and when He gave it to His disciples and said, “This is My Blood of the Covenant, which will be poured out for many.” In the Gospel of John, 6:53-56, Jesus is more explicit, He says, “I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat My Flesh and drink My Blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink. He who eats My Flesh and drink My Blood lives in Me and I live in him.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important for us to ask ourselves today, “What is the significance of celebrating and participating in the Sacrament of the Eucharist that we are here and now engaged in?” Let us first remind ourselves that the gift of the Sacrament of the Eucharist that we as a parish family is celebrating is the celebration of our Thanksgiving to God our Father, for the divine gift of Jesus His Son to us. Second, in participating in this Eucharistic celebration, we are obeying Jesus’ words and holding on to His promise that in so believing and receiving of His Body and Blood, we will have the gift of eternal life. Third, when we receive the Bread and Wine during the Eucharist, as in the Last Supper, 2,000 years ago, we are actually receiving the real and physical Body and Blood of Jesus Himself. Fourth, in receiving Jesus Himself during Holy Communion, we are each nourished and strengthened to live and face the challenges of our lives as Jesus’ Disciples faced courageously, faithfully and fervently.
Let us not forget that when Jesus gave His Disciples and us the gift of His real Self in the form of Bread and Wine, Jesus’ whole Self-Sacrificing Love of His Life is also His intrinsic and inseparable gift of Himself to us and to all of humankind. This means that when we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood at Holy Communion, we are also to live the Self-Sacrificing Love that Jesus has shown us during His lifetime on earth.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, The “giving and sharing of ourselves” is at the very heart of our experiences in human relationships. If we do not give and do not share with one another what we have, if we keep things and use our time solely for our own needs, we will end up living an isolated life of loneliness, selfishness and self-indulgence.
God created you and I to be human persons who are called to give and share the gift of ourselves with one another, and more so with those who are in need. Giving and sharing enriches relationships and deepens the meaning of life. The greater the sacrifice we make in the giving of ourselves, and the more authentic we share of ourselves with others, the deeper would our experiences and meaning of life and love be and become. And, as I explained earlier, even as the most human thing to do in life is to give the gift of ourselves to others out of love for them, the greatest human thing in life is the gift of ourselves to others out of love for God.
Let me conclude by reminding ourselves that for the Wong family in my true story, they could not, but felt drawn to express their deep compassionate love for Maribeth; a baby whom they never knew. The Wong family felt sure that as Jesus had given the gift of Himself through His Self-Sacrificing Love – through His Life, on the Cross and through His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, they also felt called to be the “self-sacrificing Christ” to Maribeth and others whom God placed in their lives daily.
The Holy Spirit that moved the Wong family is also the same Holy Spirit within my heart, your hearts and indeed in the hearts of all who receive the Body and Blood of Jesus at Holy Communion. At the end of the Mass, we are each missioned by Christ with words like, “Let us live the Eucharist that we have celebrated, and the Gospel more fully in our daily lives.” Will we?
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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