At the Last Supper, Jesus took some bread, gave thanks for it, broke it and gave it to his friends. When he held the bread and said ‘This is my Body, which will be given up for you’, he was taking his life in his hands, acknowledging that it did not belong to him but was given to him by the Father, handing it over, willingly accepting suffering and death so that his life could become a new life for everyone, and sharing that new life with his friends, assuring them that, even after his death, he would always be with them.
After he had done the same with the wine and said, ‘This is my Blood, which will be poured out for you’ Jesus then said to his friends, ‘Do this in memory of me’, reminding us that this gift is meant to change us. When we eat food, it becomes part of us, keeps us alive and makes us who we are: as we sometimes say, you are what you eat. The same is true of our spiritual life: when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, he becomes part of us and makes us like him. Our natural desire to give ourselves in service of others finds new strength and direction as we become more and more like the One who sacrificed himself for us.
Just as we need to eat and drink regularly to stay alive and healthy, so our spiritual self needs the constant nourishment that we receive in the sacraments. Being fully alive means taking our life into our hands, thanking God for the miraculous gift that it is and offering that gift back to God, to be broken and poured out for others. Only a life lived in service of others will satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst. That’s easy to say, but it’s hard for each of us to work out just how we are called to be broken and poured out. Often we have no choice about it: our family life, our work, our health or the other circumstances of our life can demand great sacrifices at times. But at other times, or even in the midst of those sacrifices, we may have some energy, time and love that we can choose to devote to the service of others. When we are giving ourselves to others, we truly become the Body of Christ.