The Perfect Todah

Deacon John P. Gaulin (June 14, 2020)

While most of us are aware of the many types of Jewish sin offerings, very few are aware of the Todah, which is the Jewish sacrifice of thanksgiving. While there are many examples of Jews offering a Todah throughout the Old Testament, the most famous is the Todah of King David, as the Jews brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem for the first time.

Essential to the Todah sacrifice was a lamb, unleavened bread, and wine. Interestingly, while the Todah was offered in thanksgiving for something that happened, it was not unusual for it to be offered before – that is, in anticipation – of the blessing to be bestowed.

So, why is all this important? Because, Todah translated into Greek is ‘eucharistica’, and it is in the Todah that we see the essential elements of the Eucharist – not just of unleavened bread and wine, but the sacrifice of the Lamb as well. However, the Todah is more than merely a precursor of the Eucharist. The rite for Passover and for the Todah are very similar. At the Last Supper, Jesus uses the words of the Todah as He gives thanks and offers the blessing over the bread and wine, in anticipation of the salvation of the world through His death and resurrection.

Handed down through centuries of Jewish tradition, made more perfect through the sacrifice of Christ, Jesus elegantly transforms the Todah into the Eucharist, and it becomes the central part of our most precious liturgy: The Mass. And in so doing, brings to life an old Rabbinic teaching that says: “In the coming Messianic age all sacrifices will cease, but the thank offering [Todah] will never cease.”

There is no such thing as coincidence. And so, we should take notice when – after being forced to fast from the Eucharist for over three months, that on the first weekend we come back to church, we celebrate the feast of… the Eucharist. That is, Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Christ. His true presence in the form of simple bread and wine – our Eucharistic meal.

And just like a fine dining restaurant, you had to make a reservation and be escorted to your seat. As it should be. The cuisine here is finer than any found anywhere. Our readings today testify to that.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, we hear Moses remind the people that when they were crossing the desert, they were hungry and thirsty because… well, because they were in a desert! God provided them with their daily bread, which they called ‘manna’. In Hebrew it means, ‘What is that?’ You see, even from the beginning, bread from Heaven was a mystery.

In the second reading from Corinthians, Paul confirms the early Church’s complete acceptance of the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ. And he explains that because of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, when we – as a community – partake in this sacred meal, it makes us members of His body.

And then in the Gospel, we hear an excerpt from St. John’s ‘Bread of Life Discourse’. Here, Jesus makes it clear: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” When Jesus proclaims this truth, most of those around him reject the idea. “This saying is hard. Who can believe it?”, they responded. And then they left; only the Apostles remained. Jesus asked them, “And do you want to go as well?” Peter responded for the group: “Lord, to whom are we to go? We have come to know and believe that you have the words of everlasting life.”

Who is the Eucharist to you? Has this Eucharistic fast given you a perspective that you never had before? Has it drawn you closer to this mystery of Faith? Have you come to realize that our Faith is based on mystery? Eucharist, virgin birth, Trinity, Resurrection, and many more. Even going back to the Old Testament: the burning bush not consumed, the 80-year-old freeing a nation, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna from Heaven… and on… and on… and on.

The Eucharist is a mystery. We cannot explain it, but we believe it because of the same reason the Apostles did: we trust Christ, period.

There will come today, a moment of truth, where our trust will be put to the test:

  • When you present yourself for Communion, will you bow recognizing you are in the true presence of Christ, or just show up because it’s your turn?
  • When you are presented with the Body of Christ, will your ‘amen’ mean, ‘I believe’, or ‘just give it to me, will ya?’
  • Will you open your hands to form a throne for the King, or hold out your hand out of habit?
  • Will you consume the host with reverence, recognizing the presence of Christ, or just pop it in your mouth like a small cracker?

The Church teaches that the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit’ of our Faith. That is, the foundation and the objective. The more we come to embrace the reality of this mystery of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, the greater our practice of all the other aspects of the Faith will become. When that happens, those mysteries become less a source of confusion, and more a source of strength.

You see, the mysteries of our Faith are only mysteries because our knowledge and wisdom are so limited compared to God’s. We see only a small sliver of the beauty, truth and goodness in all of God’s creation. Thus, when we assume that what we see is all there is to see, it prevents us from recognizing the obvious: that we are a small part of an infinite whole. Small, yes, but precious all the same!

Today we celebrate Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Christ. May this great feast serve to ever deepen your relationship with Christ and lead you to the life He promised to those who believe.

Welcome back!