John, do you take Mary, here present, to be your lawful wife…? I do.
Mary, do you take John, here present, to be your lawful husband…? I do.
They are holding hands, drawing each other to themselves as they say the key word, “take,” and they pledge mutual love and faithful union through an unforeseeable future.
Jesus made the same pledge to us, his followers, when he said over the bread, “This is my body…take and eat from it; this is the cup of my blood…take and drink from it.”
What he said is related to the vows that married couples make to each other, but, I would suggest, not to be taken literally, in a physical sense. They refer rather to the person of Jesus — and to the loving, caring, sharing, giving, reassuring, sacrificing, accepting that belong to a life-exchanging relationship.
That’s what Eucharist is about: a union of life and love. Surely you’ve noticed that persons who are very close to each other over a long period of time take on one another’s characteristics. As I have heard it said so often, “Live with another person long enough, and you begin to look and act like them.”
It’s true, and that’s what is happening to you and me as we live with Jesus through the Eucharist.
I’ve chosen to remind you here again of the brilliant article written by the late Monsignor Gerald Martin in America Magazine some 20 years ago, the most enlightening words that I have ever read on the topic of Eucharist. He wrote: “Jesus did not institute the Eucharist to change bread and wine into his body and blood, but to change us into his body.” Here are quotes from Father Martin:
The Mass is not meant to transform elements, but to transform people. When Jesus said, “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the world, he was not referring to his real presence in the sacrament of Eucharist: he was referring to his real presence in his people, in you and me, the members of his mystical body on earth.
Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me…” What did this refer to? Did Jesus mean “Say these words, use these elements and these gestures in memory of me?” Father Martin answered, by no means.
Jesus had said, “This is my body that is given up for you. This is the cup of my blood which is poured out for you.” “Do this in memory of me” means “In memory of me you should imitate my self-giving which is represented in these symbols of bread broken and wine poured out. When you take and eat, you enter into this action and commit yourself to imitate my self-giving in your own life.”
We should desire, expect, and anticipate just such a transformation in our own life. That’s the meaning of Eucharist.