Today’s readings do not give us a clear message, so if you don’t mind I’d like to say something about our thoughts at Mass. I have benefited from following a line of thought developed in a book I read fifteen years ago. That book insisted that the Mass is rooted in the grace at meals offered by Jesus at the Last Supper.
At formal meals the Jewish host had to lead the diners through a three-part table blessing. In the first part he asked them to recall the favors they had received from God. In the second part he begged God to come down to unite them. In the third part the host begged the diners to join him in making all of them into one pleasing gift to God. They prepared for this by confessing their sins so that their sacrifice would be pure.
The three parts of the blessing were known by their Greek names. The calling God’s favors to mind was the anamnesis. The second part, calling God to come down was called the epiclesis. The Greek name for that third part of the blessing, the pleasing gift, was the Eucharista.
The importance of that table blessing has been thoroughly obscured by a misleading English translations of the New Testament. In the original Greek both St. Paul and St. Luke wrote that Jesus took up the bread eucharistesas, meaning that Jesus took up the bread at the Eucharist, which is the third part of the table blessing.
Strangely, Our English New Testament translates that Greek word eucharisteasas in two quite different ways. In Luke’s account of the Last Supper we translate it as “said the blessing,” In Paul’s account we turn it into “after he gave thanks.”
We make nothing of the fact that Jesus gave the Apostles his body under the form of bread just then so that they might be physically as well as spiritually united with him in the Eucharista, the Pleasing Gift.
To properly participate in the Mass we must become part of what is sacrificed. We must become part of the Pleasing Gift.