While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26-28, NRSV
“You are, what you eat” – originally ‘Der Mensch ist, was er iβt‘ by Ludwig Feuerbach, philosopher (1804–1872)
‘You are, what you eat’ – this is a saying we probably all know. And of course we also know, that our food and nourishment contribute to our physical and emotional wellbeing – or might be harmful. We tend to eat too much, we tend to eat too much salt and sugar, we eat too much greasy food, we don’t exercise enough – and so many people in our affluent society are overweight or suffer from diseases that we find predominantly in affluent societies, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. I am the first one to admit that my diet is not always the best – things that are unhealthy often taste so good. Me personal weakness are French fries and potato chips…
Ironically many of these diet based diseases are also a consequence of poverty, at least in this country. Many unhealthy foods, snacks and sweets are often very inexpensive and the only foodstuff many poor people can afford or have access to. Especially in inner cities, there literally are food deserts, meaning there are no fresh and nutritious foods available.
As soon as we ingest something, it is transformed in our bodies – mainly into energy, which we then burn and use. Ideally, we also take in important nutrients, minerals, vitamins and fiber. However, the things we don’t need are transformed as well: into fat reserves like beer bellies and muffin tops, deposits in our organs and blood vessels, and processes that are detrimental to our health. And so we are, what we eat, for better and for worse.
In the gospels we hear how Jesus liked to sit down for a meal with friends and opponents. A shared meal is always also an opportunity to share of oneself and to share community. Around the table we are transformed into a table fellowship.
Jesus sits down with his closest followers for a last meal. Take and eat, this is my body – drink, this is my blood. Jesus shares himself in a very special way.
I don’t want to start a theological discussion about how exactly bread and wine are transformed into body and blood of Christ; in whichever this transformation happens, we know that something happens, which goes beyond our understanding. Somehow, when we partake in bread and wine during communion, we partake in Christ. Christ becomes a part of us and we become a part of Christ. By making Christ a part of us, we make God a part of us. It’s a deep and special relationship, which changes and transforms us. It is so deep and special that we partake in communion again and again – ‘for remembrance’, as a reminder and as an encouragement.
Moreover we, the table community, together become the body of Christ, in all our amazing diversity. In other words: the arguably most amazing transformation that happens is that now we, together, embody Christ in the here and now. Together, with our manifold talents and gifts, we can proclaim the gospel – good news! – in word and deed where it is needed; by visiting the sick and the prisoners, by feeding the hungry, by taking care that the thirsty have access to clean drinking water on this planet, in short, to work for justice for all of God’s children.
Thus we become that, which we eat – that, which we partake in during communion – for our salvation and the salvation of the world.
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