“During the meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it as a sign that his body would be broken, too, through his freely accepted death. The humanity of Christ is like the grape because it was crushed in the winepress of the cross so that his blood flowed forth over all the earth….How great is the charity of the beloved! How great the love of the Bridegroom for his spouse, the Church!”
–Saint Anthony of Padua
Saint Anthony’s words today help us to focus on the Eucharist. He tells us that the action of Jesus at the Last Supper, in the breaking of bread, and pouring a cup of wine, were signs of what was to come the next day—in his suffering on the cross.
The saint’s key insight is his description of Christ’s death as “freely accepted.” Jesus himself, as the Gospel of John relates, said that there was no greater love, than for one to lay down his life for his friends. It was love which motivated our Lord’s embrace of the cross, the consequence of who he was and what he taught, “loving his own to the end.”
During the shut-down mandated by the pandemic, pastors and communities have been participating in Eucharist via live-streaming. This experience can challenge us to appreciate those around us—our family which has gathered for Mass “remotely’’—and see one another as sacraments of God love.
In the “virtual community” created in this novena, we’ve been praying for our loved ones who are sick, for caregivers, and for those who are grieving losses. Behind all these intentions is (as Saint Anthony describes it) the “great charity of the beloved, the love of the Bridegroom for his spouse, the Church.”