Reflecting on the Bread of Life brought to mind simultaneously the loaves and fishes Jesus fed to the crowds, the Last Supper, and the Mass. In each instance, the bread is always broken and distributed to all. The nugget then came --- We are each called to be broken like this bread, broken to bits, and distributed to those around us.
At the time, my meditation focused on the breaking of the bread being similar to mothers being pulled in many different directions. This nugget has been of great comfort to me, giving me confidence to keep going and to keep giving.
Yesterday, however, at our pastor's final Mass at our parish (which is likely to be closed this fall), I understood a new reality in the breaking of the bread and giving of self. This is difficult to write, so I pray I communicate well what I experienced.
The Mass ended up being two and a half hours long. Father had combined all three of the Sunday morning Masses into one bilingual Mass, so that he could offer a Mass of thanksgiving for his twenty years as pastor of the parish. First, let me say, I was absolutely amazed at how well our children did! They were mostly still, mostly quiet, and did not complain at all! Thanks be to God!
It was a very emotional high Mass with incense, cameras flashing, and many shedding tears, including Father. The red and white roses adorning the sanctuary were perfect. The languages of Spanish, English, and Latin blended beautifully to unify those in the pews. We arrived early to sit in our usual place in the front pew for the sake of the children (they are always better behaved up front).
I had done pretty well throughout the Mass. I recall tears flooding my eyes once or twice, but no tears actually fell from my eyes for quite a long time, throughout the emotional homily and Eucharistic prayers. Father's consecration prayers were heartfelt, and he struggled to rise as he worshipped with us, saying the Mass ad orientem - facing the same way as the people. Once, I saw him dab his eyes with the purificator. He is so sad that the parish is being closed.
As he distributed the Eucharist by intinction, which has always been his practice, some knelt at the communion rail, some stood, but all did so with the great reverence he has so genuinely taught us. From the very first person, he began breaking the small hosts in half before distributing them. At one point, he went back to the altar and took time to break all of the remaining hosts in half, hoping perhaps to speed up the line a bit. He knew there were not enough for everyone.
But, then, he ran out of those halved hosts. By the sigh and slight roll of his eyes, I could tell it was unplanned. The church was truly filled to capacity, standing room only. I am not sure who lays out the hosts before Mass, but there were not enough. This has happened before. It was nothing new.
As usual, Father approached the tabernacle and all knelt as he unlocked and opened it, again as he taught us - always kneel when the tabernacle is open displaying Our Lord and Savior in the Most Holy Eucharist. He began pulling out the two ciboria and pouring the contents into his own. Then, I saw him take the standing pyx containing the luna, where the large host is kept that is put in the monstrance for Eucharistic Adoration, and place it into his ciborium, breaking it into pieces.
Having emptied the tabernacle of the Eucharist, with another deep sigh, he blew out the tabernacle lamp. That is when the tears began to flow down my cheeks. To me, Christ was giving our pastor a most memorable commendation. Our pastor has given everything to our parish, his whole self, holding nothing back, for twenty long years. So, too, that day, Jesus Christ gave every last bit of Himself to the parishioners, to us.
I was stunned and truly had to concentrate to avoid worrying my children by beginning to sob. I bowed my head and prayed. I thought: the Lord was broken into bits, tiny bits, and given to us, both in the Eucharist and on the Cross. He wants us to know that He has given every last drop of His Precious Blood, every last breath from His Sacred Body, to us. He has held nothing back, because of His profound love for each one of us.
This simple understanding overwhelmed me with humility. I was astounded at Christ's open display of love for me. I have lingered in that moment for the past 33 hours, not wanting to write too soon, for fear I would lose it. Fortunately, the comfort Jesus shared with me remains, and now, by writing, I hope not to forget it.
In the end, there were only a few consecrated hosts remaining, which our pastor consumed. There will be more Masses at our parish. Our pastor is going on a full month-long vacation, his first in twenty years. Then, he has been assigned to a different parish, where we will likely begin attending Mass next weekend. Priests have been assigned to cover the weekend Masses at our parish. They will refill the tabernacle, I am sure. Eventually, there will be a formal Last Mass with the bishop to remove the Blessed Sacrament from the grounds.
And, the Lord will continue to give us every last bit of Himself no matter where we are, because He is infinite. He does not run out...ever. He is always enough, no more, no less. His grace is entirely and perfectly sufficient for me - and for you.