May 29, 2016 — The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which is also called Corpus Christi, it is no wonder that all of our readings connect to our understanding of the Eucharist. Each in its own way brings an understanding and appreciation for what the Eucharist means to us.
The First Reading from the Book of Genesis begins with this profound statement: “In those days, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram…” The mention of the bread and wine provides us with a connection to the Eucharist; however, we also need to note Abram’s response in gratitude: “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” This occurred about 1800 B.C. We might say that Melchizedek, as a forerunner of Christ, offers the bread and wine as a kind of thanksgiving offering, of the same type that Jesus offers to the Father at the Last Supper.
However, we also need to pay attention to Abram’s tithe. Scholars generally agree that when Abram gave Melchizedek one tenth of everything, that referred to Abram giving one tenth of all his assets, not just his income. It is as if Abram and Melchizedek are trying to outdo one another in blessing the other. Melchizedek blesses Abram out of what he had, and Abram offers a return blessing out of his resources. Isn’t this the same kind of attitude Christ asks of us? As a community of faith, are we not called to the same kind of responses?
St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, from which our Second Reading comes, includes this brief summary by Paul of what happened at the Lord’s Supper. We must always take note of what it says about the Lord’s preparation of the bread and wine. It says “…after he had given thanks.” We have often pointed out that the Greek word Eucharist means “to give thanks.” The key to our celebration of the Eucharist, our recreating the Last Supper is to remember Jesus in the process. Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
According to Sacrosanctum Concilium, a Vatican II document, “At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.” That is a precise statement of what we should be considering every time we approach the Eucharist. That is why receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is so sacred and should be a profound experience for us every time we experience it.
The Gospel of Luke on this holy day presents us with another perspective of Christ’s Body and Blood. It is the narrative of the miracle of Christ feeding the multitude. The gathered crowd was hungry, but of course that hunger involves more than food. Jesus fed them both spiritually and practically. What the Lord had for them, and what He has for each of us through the Eucharist is the Bread of Life. That is the true miracle, a wonder beyond our imaginations and even at times beyond our understanding.
Before He feeds them, Jesus does the following: “Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” We may think in terms of Jesus blessing the food before He distributes it; however, there is more to it than that. Jesus was also blessing God for supplying the food. Before we receive the Eucharist, we need to do the same — thank God for blessing us with these gifts. We show our gratitude to God through lives of stewardship, lives of loving and caring and sharing.