Strengthening the Family through Word and Eucharist Bible Sunday Message 2019
When the family
gets together, the two things they do most are: eat & talk.
This is especially so when long-scattered family members are reunited on
festive or special occasions. And most certainly the case for the Asian family.
‘Eat’ is so deeply ingrained in our culture because it satisfies one of our most
elemental needs and is the most basic care that parents/elders provide for their
children/younger. ‘Talk’, meanwhile, is the primary means that we use in order
to communicate love, ideas, experiences, knowledge, traditions, amongst many
other things. And we don’t just eat & talk; we eat heartily and talk animatedly
because it is during these occasions that we feel most alive and connected.
Eucharist (Eat) and Bible (Talk)
It is small wonder then that the two
most precious graces given by God to mankind are exactly these: Eucharist (eat)
& Bible (talk). After all, Jesus and the Jews are Asians. The Eucharist, in
particular, has its origin in the Passover meal, the most important annual
Jewish family ‘makan’. Hence the Eucharist recalls that family get-together and
reminds us of the maxim that ‘The family that prays/eats together, stays
together’. This family-orientation is very strong indeed in the Eucharist.
The Bible, on
the other hand, is often described as the love letter from the heavenly Father to
his beloved children. In it, the Father shows forth his great, patient and unfailing
love throughout the history of humankind. He even goes to the extent of nagging
his children incessantly in the hope that they may inherit eternal happiness by
heeding his advice, but the children often fail to pay any attention to Him at
all - not unlike the experience of many parents today.
Bible: Family Book
One way that the Bible shows forth
its particular focus on the human family are the two words that it uses most
frequently in the Old Testament: ‘Yahweh’
The Father God and son relationship is what God has in mind as He helps His
children with much practical advices and wisdom for each family member,
individually as well as collectively,
while at the same time teaching them how to build better relationships with others.
It consoles in times of difficulty and pain, strengthens and encourages in times
of weakness and admonishes in times of errors.
Yet the Bible does not just dispense great
wisdom and spirituality; more fundamentally, the Bible is in itself ‘ … full of
families, birth, love stories and family crises.’
It feels real to the family because in it are found their journeys of hope and
disappointment, love & betrayal, joy & despair, triumph and failure.
And throughout all these spiritual journeys and struggles, the ultimate triumph
of good over evil and truth over falsehood are comforting thoughts for today’s families
besieged by the complexities and challenges of the modern world.
For those who feel that the Bible
contains only empty words, the Bible itself assures us that ‘The word of God is
alive and active … (Hebrew 4:12)’. When a family (indeed, any group) reads the
Bible together prayerfully, the words come alive for them. What touches them are
not just mere words, but the presence of the Spirit of God among them.
Moreover, Jesus himself promised that ‘Where two or three are gathered in my
name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).’ Thus when a family
prays the Bible together, the Trinity
- Father, Son and Holy Spirit - are present with them and move them with their
presence (cf. John 14:23).
Eucharist: Word in Action
More importantly, Jesus does not just
teach other people what to do; he lives what he preaches. He laid down his life
for his people, the ones he loved, each and every one of them. This is an
example of love very badly needed by so many broken families today: a head of
the family who keeps his promises and sacrifices himself for his family (cf. Ephesians
5:25-33). This self-giving act of Jesus is remembered and indeed re-enacted
every time the Eucharist is celebrated, as we obey his commandment of ‘Do this
in memory of me (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24-26).’ It reminds everyone what
it takes to live together in love and harmony while at the same time it strengthens
all those present with its grace and efficacy.
Hence if the Bible were but just a
mere record of the promise of salvation from the Father, then the Eucharist is the
fulfilment and acting out of that promise as well as its everlasting proof. In
this sense, it can be said that the Bible and the Eucharist complement each
other the same way that Word and Action go hand-in-hand - without the Action,
the Word can appear empty and without the Word, the Action is not easily
It is in the context of a holy Mass
that the Bible (in the Liturgy of the Word) and the Eucharist are most
It might be fruitful also to reflect upon the other two Real Presences of
Christ in the Mass, besides the Bible and the Eucharist, i.e., the Presider and
the People of God gathered for the celebration.
As far as the Bible and the Eucharist are concerned, Christians are at the
receiving end, i.e., we receive graces, help and benefits by our encounter with,
or participation in, them. Yet ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive
(Acts 20:35)’; hence in order to continue to grow and to continue receiving
these graces, one needs to bear witness
to and to give back in some way what one has received.
As we have eaten and been filled from
the double-tables of the Word and Eucharist of the Lord, it is our turn to do
the same. The lessons that have been learned and the graces that have been
received must be applied and given back to those around us: the Church
community (represented by the Presider) and family, friends, colleagues, fellow
citizens (represented by the People of God) regardless of whether they are
believers or not. Every Mass is, therefore, an opportunity for growth and receiving
gifts but also an encouragement to share these to people around us, the first
of which is, of course, our family. As the dismissal of the Mass reminds us:
‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.’ or ‘Go and announce the Good
News of the Lord.’
Questions for Reflection
word has power. Our words too have power to heal or to hurt, especially those
closest to us. How aware are we of that? How often do we put our words to good
bread-provider of the family is the one who exercises the power, but he/she is
also called to make sacrifices, even to the extent of laying down his/her own life
(like Christ in the Eucharist) in order to provide for the family. Are we
convinced that with greater power comes greater responsibility and servanthood?
‘Husband … must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect
her husband (Ephesians 5:33)’; ‘Parents, never drive your children to
resentment … (Ephesians 6:4)’; ‘Honour your father and your mother … that you
may have long life and may prosper … (Deuteronomy 5:16)’; ‘Let no one despise
your youth, but be an example to all believers … (1 Timothy 4:12)’; The good
wife in Proverbs 31; Ps 128; Song of songs 2:16; 6:3; etc.
‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)’,
‘… be reconciled with your brothers before presenting your offering at the
altar (cf. Matthew 5:24)’; ‘Take the plank out of your own eye first … (Matthew