A proud grandfather was responsible for watching his six-year-old grandson. They had a great day together, playing games, and having fun. The grandpa worked very hard to prepare a delicious supper for them to eat. But when he put the food on the table, his grandson wanted none of it. The grandfather pleaded, cajoled, and threatened. All to no avail. Finally, he threw up his hands and said, “What am I going to do?” You don’t like the soup. You don’t like meat. You don’t like the vegetables. What do you like?” The boy thought for a moment and then with a clever smile said, “I like you, Grandpa.”
Now there is no question that we need food to live. But the comment of the boy points out that we need more than food. Our lives are ultimately about the people who are in our lives- our families, our friends, those in our faith community, those we love and serve. And the truth is important every time we gather together for the Eucharist. In the Eucharistic feast, we celebrate a wondrous food. We as Catholics believe that when we share the Eucharist together, the bread and the wine on the altar become the body and blood of the Risen Christ, the real presence of Christ for us. It is this wondrous food, which we receive and bring into our hearts.
But even though this food is miraculous, our Eucharistic food is not an end in itself. The Eucharist also offers us a pattern for living. That pattern is very close in Luke’s gospel. When Jesus feeds the multitude, his action is described by four verbs. We might call them the four Eucharistic verbs, because these verbs are used to describe Jesus’ action, not only in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes but also at the Last Supper and in every Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer.
The four verbs are: take, bless, break, give.
In Luke’s story of the multiplication of the loaves of bread, we are told that Jesus took the loaves, blessed them, broke them, and then gave them to the disciples to give to the people. All ate and were satisfied. These four verbs do not only describe Jesus’ action in the Eucharist, but also provide for us a pattern that we are called to follow.
We are called to take and bless, to break and give. To take is to recognize God’s blessings in our lives. When we own the gifts we have been given, we are led to bless God, to thank God for our gifts. So the first two verbs call us to take and bless, to take and be thankful. What do we have to be thankful for? Many things: our health, our time, our family and friends, our talents, our abilities, our faith- our lives! All of these are gifts and blessings. We must not walk through life in a daze, ignorant of what we have been given. We must recognize our gifts. We must take them and bless God who has given them to us.
So first we take and bless, but that is not enough. The gifts for which we are thankful must also be given. But before we can give we must break. The image comes from the bread. Before bread can be given to others, it must be broken, because one cannot eat a whole loaf at once. In the same way, the gifts that we want to give to one another must be broken so that they are accessible. They must be broken so that they can be received easily by those to whom we give them. We might truly love others but if we don’t have the words, if we don’t have the patience, if we don’t have the strength to tell others of that love, our love can never be given or received. So the first step for each of us before we can give, is to make sure that we allow our gifts to be accessible. That means that we need to break in ourselves anything that hinders the giving of the gift. We need to break ourselves by being willing to change, to change whatever is necessary to allow the giving to happen. For some of us, we must change by being more aggressive. Others will need to be more humble or quiet. Some of us have to speak louder. Others more softly. Whatever change is required to allow our gift to be given, we must enact it. Unless our gifts are accessible to others and fully offered, the giving will not have an effect.
The four verbs used to describe the actions of Jesus in the Gospel are meant to remind us that the Eucharist is more than the miraculous change of the bread and wine. It calls for a change in us. The Eucharist offers each one of us a pattern of living. We must take the gifts that we are given and thank God for them. Then we must break anything that hinders us from giving these gifts to others. Take. Bless. Break. Give. These are the four verbs that describe Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist. These are the four verbs we use every time we come together to celebrate the Mass. These are the four actions on which we must pattern our lives always! These are the four verbs for “Multiplying the Good!”