BY BISHOP JAMES T. SCHUERMAN
What would you be willing to do for someone you love? I have heard many moving stories of people undertaking self-sacrificial and creative acts motivated solely by love for others. There are parents who sacrifice dreams and desires to make sure their children have a better education, a better life and a better future. There are people who have donated kidneys and bone marrow to ailing family members. There are spouses who have worked hard to change their ways of behaving and thinking in order to save their marriages. Love can motivate us to do extraordinary things.
Jesus, who is Love Incarnate, gathered his friends on the night before he died to celebrate the Passover. Knowing that he would be giving his own life that the world might live, he gave to those he loved his Body and his Blood in the form of bread and wine. Motivated solely out of love, he gave the gift of himself, instructing his disciples to repeat this action until his return in glory.
Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” Pope Francis, in a homily on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in May 2016 said, “Jesus gives us the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood.” He goes on to say, “Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were for others.”
The Holy Father spoke about the sacrifices that people make for others in terms of being broken for others: “How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well? How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated? Where do they find the strength to do this? It is the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: Do this in remembrance of me.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples, “Remain in my love.” (John 15:9b) He says the same thing to us today. How do we remain in his love? Pope Francis, in another homily delivered in a Mass for Caritas Internationalis in May 2019, said that we do that by being close to Jesus, who is “broken Bread” for us. He says, “It helps us to be before the Tabernacle and before the many living tabernacles that are the poor. The Eucharist and the poor, fixed Tabernacle and mobile tabernacles: there one abides in love and absorbs the mentality of the broken Bread.”
Jesus said, “As the Father loves, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9a) The Father gave everything to His Son, holding nothing back. Jesus held nothing back from us when he allowed himself to be broken for our salvation. Jesus calls us to be self-sacrificial and generous. He calls us to be broken for others, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. Pope Francis says that Jesus asks us “to trust the other and to give ourselves to the other.”
What are we willing to do for love of others? Jesus gave us an example of self-giving love that we might learn to be like him. Are we willing to be broken bread for those in need? Christ calls us, as members of his Church, to break open our lives and our faith as a sign of his love for the world.