Entering the minor seminary at a very tender age, we had to go through an orientation program which includes in-depth instructions on prayer life, personal conduct, hygiene, and table etiquette. With regards to table manners, I could recall one of the student prefects telling us that we are not permitted to bite directly from a loaf of bread when served at breakfast, rather we are to eat it by breaking it off piece by piece just as much as one can chew at a time.
All the Gospel accounts of the institution of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, including St. Paul’s testimony, report that our Lord broke the bread after blessing it before giving it to his disciples to eat as his body. (Matt. 26:26-28, Mk.14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1Cor. 11:23-25). During the feeding of the five thousand, in the Gospel today (Luke 9:11b-17) we learn that our Lord broke the loaves after blessings and handed them over to the disciples before they started sharing them out to the people.
We see the “bread-breaking” trend happening after the resurrection when Cleopas and an unnamed disciple encountered Jesus on their way to Emmaus. Luke (24:30-32) tells us that the two disciples could not recognize Jesus until he blessed and broke the bread at the table that night, but he vanished from their sight at that moment of breaking the bread. In the apostolic times, the breaking of bread becomes a way of describing the prayerful unity of the people who are following the new way; namely, the community of believers in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:42,46; Acts 20:7,11).
“From Breaking to Being Broken
The breaking of bread by our Lord Jesus Christ and its subsequent re-enactment in our daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist is deeply symbolic. Reflecting on the words of the institution of the sacrament, we would discover that what we break is not just bread but Jesus Christ himself because the breaking happens after the bread and wine had become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Eucharist, our Lord becomes vulnerable in other words, “breakable” so that we can eat him. In fact, without being broken, we would not be able to have him as real food. This “brokenness” explains what he accomplished for us through his passion and death on the cross. St. Paul says that our Lord Jesus Christ did not count on his equality with God but humbled himself taking the form of a servant and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient even unto death on a cross (Phil. 2:6)
we could relate with the events of our Lord’s “brokenness” following immediately after the institution of the Eucharist. Judas betrays him with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48), Peter denies him three times (John 19:15-27), the soldiers mock, flog, and crown him with thorns (Matt. 27:27-31), they crucify him on the cross, and he dies (John 19:17-18,30).
Moving Forward: Being Broken for one another
Jesus is not only our Lord and Savior; he is also our teacher and model. In one of his instructions, he says: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 1129).
Reflecting on the preceding, our participation in the Holy Eucharist should help us to replicate the brokenness of our Lord Jesus in our lives. First, there would be a need for us to break away from sin to give us a chance for worthy reception of the Lord in Holy Eucharist.
Furthermore, we need to be broken for one another by our intentional acts of service in love and charity starting from our families and communities. Our brokenness for one another would also involve forgiving each other as our Lord did at the height of his brokenness on the cross when he asked the Father to forgive his executors because they lack true knowledge (Luke 23:34).
On this Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us try to make a far-reaching reappraisal of our commitment to the Holy Eucharist by working towards making intentional replication of what we celebrate; being broken for the Lord and one another.
I wish you a Happy celebration and a blessed week ahead.
Let us break bread together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us break bread together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me. (on me)…. Joan Baez.