Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 6:22-59; John 13:1-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The Story in Brief
On the night before He died, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. At supper, He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and give it to His disciples with the words, “Take, eat; this is My Body” (see Matthew's version). Afterward, He took a cup of wine, gave thanks, and said, “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.” He added, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Points to Ponder
1. Meditate on the setting of the First Eucharist, which was Jesus' celebration of the Passover with His disciples. Read over Matthew 26:17-25, Mark 14:12-21, and Luke 22:7-13. Why did Jesus choose Passover as the setting for the First Eucharist? Consider the Passover symbolism of sacrifice and deliverance and how Jesus, as the Lamb of God, was the new Passover Lamb. You may also wish to read and meditate on the article “The Hunt for the Fourth Cup” by Scott Hahn.
2. Re-read Matthew 26:17-25, Mark 14:12-21, and Luke 22:7-13, and think about how the disciples prepared for the Passover meal. Jesus gave the disciples specific instructions, and the disciples found everything just as He said it would be. Try to picture the scene, and reflect especially on the disciples' obedience to Jesus, the title “Teacher,” and Jesus' words, “My time is near.”
3. Just before the meal, Jesus predicted that one of His disciples would betray Him. Picture the scene. What kind of atmosphere did this prediction create? Why did Jesus make it right before the First Eucharist?
4. Jesus blessed the bread first. Why? What is the significance of the bread?
5. Deeply ponder Jesus' words. “Take, eat; this is My body.” “This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
6. Jesus broke the sacramental Bread, now His Body, and gave it to the disciples. Meditate on this highest of self-offerings.
7. Jesus then took the cup and gave thanks (Greek eucharisteō). Ponder the significance of wine and of giving thanks.
8. “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.” Reflect carefully on every word.
9. Think closely about the variation of Jesus' words in Luke: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My Blood.”
10. Meditate on the meaning of a “covenant” and on its requirement of complete, self-giving love.
11. Jesus was not being symbolic in His words. He is really present in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Ponder this great truth and great mystery
12. Jesus said that He would not drink from the fruit of the vine again until the day when He would drink it new with the disciples in His Father's kingdom. What does He mean?
13. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul recounts the First Eucharist in the context of a warning against abuses that were occurring with regard to the Sacrament. Paul reminds his readers, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord' death until He comes.” Carefully read and consider Paul's words.
14. Reflect on Paul's admonition about eating and drinking the Lord's Body and Blood unworthily, his warning against unbelievers partaking in the Eucharist, and his call to examine oneself before receiving Holy Communion.
15. Why doesn't St. John describe the Institution of the Eucharist in his Gospel?
16. Carefully read and ponder John 6:22-59. Reflect on Jesus as the Bread from heaven and the Bread of life. Meditate on Jesus words: “Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” Consider the Jews' reaction and Jesus' response: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh....Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood abide in Me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats Me will live because of Me....”
17. Jesus' teachings in John 6 were difficult for the Jews to accept. Many of His disciples abandoned Him, but He didn't call them back and tell them that He was merely speaking symbolically. Why not?
18. In chapter 13 of his Gospel, St. John relates how Jesus washed the disciples' feet during the Last Supper. Read this account and ponder Jesus' words and actions. Think about how Jesus assumed the role of a servant. Also consider Peter's attempt to resist and Jesus' response to Peter. Reflect on how Jesus was modeling servanthood for His disciples who were to imitate Him. Think also about how this event relates to the actual institution narrative.
19. Take some time to read the Catechism's sections on the Eucharist. Also explore the wonderful resources at the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration website. Make a list of what strikes you most about the Blessed Sacrament and spend time reflecting on those points. The more time and effort you put into learning about Jesus' awesome gift, the more you will grow in your spiritual life and the deeper your Rosary prayer will be.
1. What do you really believe about the Eucharist? Do your beliefs match the Church's teaching? If not, are you willing, through study and prayer, to learn more about the Blessed Sacrament and come to accept that the Church's teaching is in fact Jesus' teaching?
2. What kind of effort are you making to better understand and appreciate the great gift of the Eucharist?
3. How are you obeying, or not obeying, Jesus?
4. Do you trust in Jesus' words and promises even when they seem impossible or you don't understand them?
5. How do you offer yourself to Jesus?
6. How do you give thanks to God for all that He has given you and especially for the Eucharist?
7. Do you attend Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation? How do you behave at Mass? Do you give your full attention or are you distracted? Do you truly understand what happens in the Mass? How might you grow in knowledge, attention, and devotion?
8. Do you believe that Jesus is really and truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist? How do you live that belief? How does it affect the way in which you receive Jesus in Holy Communion and experience the great gift of the Eucharist?
9. Are you receiving the Eucharist worthily?
10. How do you prepare your heart to receive Holy Communion? How might you improve your preparation?
11. In what ways are you a servant to other people? How might you grow in your servanthood?
Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer
Blessing and adoration – Lord Jesus Christ, we stand in awe at Your total self-offering of great love, and we bow our heads in silent adoration before You, Who are really and truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist.
Praise – Jesus, we praise You in your awesome greatness and in Your gentle humility. We praise You under the forms of Bread and Wine. We praise You Who have given Yourself as our food and drink in the Blessed Sacrament.
Thanksgiving – Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for giving us Your very Self, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist. Thank You for being our Bread of life that has come down from Heaven that we may have eternal life and never be hungry and thirsty again. Thank You for abiding in us and allowing us to abide in You in a very special way when we receive You in Holy Communion.
Intersession – Lord, we lift up to You all those who receive the Eucharist unworthily. Touch their hearts, Lord, and bring them to repentance and to a full and deep belief in Your Real Presence. We lift up to You, too, those Who are outside of full communion with the Catholic Church and therefore do not have the benefit of receiving You in such an intimate way. Bring them to the fullness of faith, Lord Jesus.
Petition – Jesus, please increase our attention and devotion at Mass, and help us to delve ever deeper into the riches of the Blessed Sacrament. Prevent us from ever receiving You unworthily, and help us to better prepare our hearts to receive You every time we approach You in Holy Communion.
Quotes from the Saints
“The Lord committed His Body and Blood to substances which are formed a homogeneous compound out of many. Bread is made of many grains, wine is produced out of many berries. Herein the Lord Jesus Christ signified us, and hallowed in His own table the mystery of our peace and unity.” - St. Augustine
“This bread before the sacramentary words, is the bread in common use; after consecration it is made of bread Christ's flesh. And what are the words, or whose are the phrases of consecration, save those of the Lord Jesus? For if His word had power to make those things begin to be which were not, how much rather will it not be efficacious to cause them to remain what they are, while they are at the same time changed into somewhat else. For if the heavenly word has been effectual in other matters is it ineffectual in heavenly sacraments? Therefore of the bread is made the Body of Christ, and the wine is made blood by the consecration of the heavenly word. Do you inquire after the manner? Learn. The course of nature is, that a man is not born but of man and woman, but by God's will Christ was born of the Holy Spirit and a Virgin.” - St. Ambrose
“The Lord invites His servants to set before them Himself for food. But who would dare to eat his Lord; This food when eaten refreshes, but fails not; He lives after being eaten, Who rose again after being put to death. Neither when we eat Him do we divide His substance; but thus it is in this Sacrament. The faithful know how they feed on Christ's flesh, each man receives a part for himself. He is divided into parts in the Sacrament, yet He remains whole; He is all in heaven, He is all in your heart. They are called Sacraments, because in them what is seen is one thing, what is understood is another, what is seen has a material form, what is understood has spiritual fruit.” - St. Augustine
“He gave thanks to instruct us after what manner we ought to celebrate this mystery, and showed also thereby that He came not to His Passion against His will. Also He taught us to bear whatever we suffer with thanksgiving, and infused into us good hopes. For if the type of this sacrifice, to wit, the offering of the paschal lamb, became the deliverance of the people from Egyptian bondage, much more shall the reality thereof be the deliverance of the world. And gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it. That they should not be distressed at hearing this, He first drank His own blood to lead them without fear to the communion of these mysteries.” - St. John Chrysostom
“He Himself also breaks the bread, which He gives to His disciples, to show that the breaking of His Body was to take place, not against His will, nor without His intervention; He also blessed it, because He with the Father and the Holy Spirit filled His human nature, which He took upon Him in order to suffer, with the grace of Divine power. He blessed bread and brake it, because He deigned to subject to death His manhood, which He had taken upon Him, in such a way as to show that there was within it the power of Divine immortality, and to teach them that therefore He would the more quickly raise it from the dead. There follows: And gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.” - St. Bede
"Nor doubt that this is true; for He plainly says, This is my body; but rather receive the words of your Savior in faith. For since He is the Truth, He lies not. They rave foolishly then who say that the mystical blessing loses its power of sanctifying, if any remains are left till the following day. For the most holy Body of Christ will not be changed, but the power of blessing and the life giving grace is ever abiding in it. For the life-giving power of God the Father is the only-begotten Word, which was made flesh not ceasing to be the Word, but making the flesh life giving. What then? since we have in us the life of God, the Word of God dwelling in us, will our body be life-giving? But it is one thing for us by the habit of participation to have in ourselves the Son of God, another for Himself to have been made flesh, that is, to have made the body which He took from the pure Virgin His own Body. He must needs then be in a certain manner united to our bodies by His holy Body and precious Blood, which we have received for a life giving blessing in the bread and wine. For lest we should be shocked, seeing the Flesh and Blood placed on the holy altars, God, in compassion to our infirmities, pours into the offerings the power of life, changing them into the reality of His own flesh, that the body of life may be found in us, as it were a certain life-giving seed. He adds, Do this in commemoration of me." - St. Cyril
"It was a thing worthy of Him, Who came from God, and went to God, to trample upon all pride; He rises from supper, and laid aside His garment, and took a towel, and, girded Himself.; After that He pours water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples' feet, anal to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. See what humility He shows, not only in washing their feet, but in other things. For it was not before, but after they had sat down, that He rose; and He not only washed them, but laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel, and filled a basin; He did not order others to do all this, but did it Himself, teaching us that we should be willing and ready to do such things." - St. John Chrysostom
Please consult the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association website for an abundance of quotes from the saints about the Blessed Sacrament.