A bald, emaciated man lay in the hospital bed, exhausted and weak after a bone marrow transplant for leukaemia. His nurse tiptoed in.
“Mr. Jensen, I’m your nurse, Hannah.”
He barely nodded. Hannah checked his vital signs. “Would you like some soup?”
He shook his head. “I just want to sleep.” Hannah came back later with medication. He took it and sank back against the pillow. Hannah offered him the paper but he wasn’t interested. Feeling defeated and concerned, Hannah left. She went to the nurses’ kitchen to pour herself a cup of tea. Then inspiration struck. She grabbed the large teapot, and placed it on a tray with some toast and two cups. Then she headed for Mr. Jensen’s room.
“Would I be disturbing you if I have my tea here in your room?” Hannah asked. “I’d like to watch the news, if it’s all right.”
“Not at all,” Mr. Jensen said, but he was clearly taken aback. Hannah put on the television, then poured herself a cup of tea.
“I brought an extra cup, if you’d like some.” “Maybe I’II have half a cup.”
Jensen and Hannah watched the news in silence, until he nodded off. As she got up to go, he asked, “Are you in tomorrow?”
“I am, and I’II have tea with you again tomorrow, if you’d like.”
“I’d like that.”
The next night Mr. Jensen had two cups of tea and a piece of toast- his first solid food in a month. The third night he and Hannah talked about their families, their hometowns their lives outside the hospital. The fourth night, he got out of bed and sat in a chair.
A few days Later Hannah found Mr. Jensen’s room empty. He had recovered enough to go home to recuperate.
Sometime later Hannah was shopping when she heard a familiar voice. “Hannah, it’s so good to see you!” said Mr. Jensen, as he swept her up in a big hug.
“This is Hannah,” he said, introducing her to his wife. “She saved my life with a cup of tea.”
A cup of tea, offered out of Hannah’s care and compassion, models Jesus’ vision for the sacrament of the Eucharist. Nourished and sustained by the food we have received, we become nourishment and sustenance for others. Out of love, Christ gives us himself in bread and asks us to become, in our love, bread for others. In sharing the body of Christ we become the body of Christ. ”If you have received worthily,” St. Augustine preached, “you are what you have received.”
In the Eucharist we receive, may we realize Jesus’ vision of becoming his flesh and blood for the life of the world.