THIS IS MY BODY WHICH IS FOR YOU
In the earliest account of the Last Supper found in the Bible, St. Paul tells us: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was handed over, took break, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you’” (1 Cor 11:24).
In the year 107, the elderly Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was sent to Rome to be martyred. During his journey Ignatius wrote ahead to the Christians in Rome. He begged that they do nothing to try to save him from death. Ignatius wrote: “He who died for us is all that I seek; He who rose again for us is my whole desire. Here is one who only longs to be God’s.... Leave me to imitate the passion of my God.... Pray leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am His wheat, ground fine by the lion’s teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.” Ignatius offered himself to Christ saying: “This is my body which is for you.”
St. Paul writes: “...every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife” (1 Cor 7:2b-4). Each day in their living together, and each night in their lying together, spouses can truly say to one another: “This is my body which is for you.”
When a mother nurses her baby, what she is saying to her child is: “This is my body which is for you.” When parents sit down to eat with their children, the food they are offering to their children is the fruit of the parents’ time, labor, and sweat. In a real sense, mothers and fathers are offering a part of their lives to their children, that part of themselves which they spent to provide this meal for their children. As they offer the meal, parents might, in truth, say to their children: “ This is my body which is for you.”
Richard Levangie, writing in “Catholic Digest,” tells of his despondency at the age of 19, following the death of his father, three other relatives and a close friend. One day, feeling especially empty, he went to Mass in a strange church and sat off to the side, barely participating in the rite. At the Sign of Peace, he recalled, “Two elderly women hobbled over to my solitary corner on fragile legs. Their journey seemed to take forever, and yet their greeting was warm and caring. In the moment it took them to arrive, I made the decision to rejoin the living.” Even frail legs and arms can be used to deliver peace: “This is my body which is for you.”
A therapist wrote in “Psychology Today” about a patient who had come to him after having changed his mind about committing suicide. The young man had planned to jump off a bridge. While driving his car to the bridge, he stopped at a traffic light. Looking toward the sidewalk he spotted an elderly woman who was smiling at him. He felt himself smiling back. The light changed and he drove on, but the memory of her kindly face stayed with him. Later, he told the psychologist, “Her smile made me think that perhaps I wasn’t so bad after all.” Never underestimate the power of your smile. Our faces too are for each other: “This is my body which is for you.”
In his autobiography, the former president of Haiti, Aristide, writes of the Holy Eucharist: “Let us stop being consumers of the host and become produces of love.” Every time we consume Christ’s Body, we are recommitting ourselves to love one another. We are saying to one another what Christ says to us: “This is my body which is for you.”
Ronald Stanley, O.P.