Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 25, 2013

The Institution of the Eucharist

Read the words of the institution of the Eucharist from Luke 22:14-20. Take some time to explain more about some of the key words (boldfaced) in the passage. See the notes below.

When the hour came, the took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten sayhing, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.

Notes

Apostles. Luke is the only author to refer to the invited guests as apostles (Matthew terms the twelve "disciples," Mark simply "the twelve"). Apostles is a Greek word that means "to send forth." In the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Luke, we learn more about the Apostles: that they are chosen by Jesus (Acts 1:2), that they are to preside over the Eucharist (Acts 2:42), that they are to witness to the Resurrection (Acts 4:33), and they speak and heal in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:7-20). At Eucharist all who gather are called to some apostolic action. The Mass ends with the charge to "go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

Passover. Luke clearly defines the Last Supper as part of a Jewish Passover meal. Matthew and Mark write only of the preparation for Passover, thought it is understood in each account that the Last Supper takes place during the Jewish Passover ritual. Luke's construction is awkward in comparison to the others in that he describes two cups; the first cup (the Passover cup) is taken before the meal, the second cup (the cup of Eucharist) is taken after the meal. Some biblical scholars have speculated that Luke may not have personally experienced the rite he is describing; hence the two cups. However, this difference in wording does not diminish the connection between the Jewish Passover (see Exodus 12) and the new Christian Passover (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1340).

Kingdom of God. The Passover has been given new meaning. It is now associated with the heavenly banquent. The ultimate reward is not, as it was for the Jews, a promised land on earth, but rather the eternal kingdom of God. Whenever we share in the new Christian Passover, the Eucharist, we live through the saving events of Christ's Death and Resurrection and "pass over" from sin and death to new life in him. This pointing to the future is also alluded to in the next verses when Jesus says that he will not share a meal with his Apostles until "the kingdom of God comes." In every age, Catholics have continued to celebrate the Eucharist, as they proclaim the Death and Resurrection of Christ, and as they proceed to the heavenly banquet.

This is my body. Body was not a biological term to first-century Jews, but a personal term. It meant: "This is me, my person." On several occasions, Jesus had prepared the Apostles to understand that he is truly present in the bread.

New covenant in my blood. Blood meant life. Jesus is saying that he will give his very life as a sacrifice for the sins of all, in the same way that the Jews sacrificed a Passover lamb as a sin offering. By sharing in this life, we are part of a new covenant with God in which we will love God and God will love us.

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