SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY & BLOOD OF CHRIST
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Today’s solemnity of Corpus Christi gives all of us an opportunity to celebrate with a deeper appreciation the infinitely nourishing sacrament of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is at the heart of what it means to be Christian, for it makes present for all time Christ’s salvific event, His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. When gathered around the altar, we are strengthened and nourished to live our lives in such a way that others will come to know the abundant love of the Lord we worship. In the Eucharist we “remember” what God has done for us by sending His Son into our world, who sacrificed His life on a cross that we might have eternal life.
Our readings for this solemnity highlight the importance of the Eucharist by linking it with the mysterious “priest forever” Melchizedek, whose “bread and wine” was offered in thanksgiving to God Most High for Abram’s victory over his enemies. The Genesis reading prefigures the Last Supper account, spoken of by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, where Jesus, “after he had given thanks,” took the bread, broke the bread, and told His disciples “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” This earliest account of the institution of the Eucharist reminds the Corinthian Church that “as often as you eat this bread [Body] and drink the cup [Blood], you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.” To “proclaim the death of the Lord” is to confess one’s Faith in the entire mystery of the Christ event. It does not only “remember” what happened on the Cross at Calvary, but it also gratefully acknowledges Jesus’ self-giving and reminds us that we are meant to live our lives by dying to self as Jesus did.
It is interesting that our third reading is not from the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper, or from the Bread of Life discourse in John. Instead, the creators of the lectionary present to us the miraculous feeding of the multitude from Luke’s gospel. This profound miracle prefigures what Jesus will do at the Last Supper when He takes the bread and fish, breaks the bread and fish, blesses the bread and fish, and gives them to His disciples to feed the crowd. Jesus’ blessing over the five loaves and two fish transforms them into something that will assuage the hunger of the multitude. The disciples in Luke’s gospel were confused and fearful that their meager gifts would ever be able to satisfy the needs of the crowd. How surprised they must have been that their simple gifts were not only able to meet the needs of the crowd, but that there was also an abundance of leftovers that “filled twelve wicker baskets.” The disciples discovered that all that was needed could be had in the “Bread of Life” who had gathered this multitude together, and who desired to satisfy all of their needs.
The Sacrament that we are privileged to celebrate on a regular basis is meant to satisfy all our needs, yet too often it fails to nourish. Our celebrations of the Eucharist have the danger of becoming rote and ordinary, so familiar that we fail to recognize what a precious gift we have in the Eucharist. Never should we fail to recognize that in the Eucharist we draw as close to the Most High God as is possible in this world, and like the multitude in today’s gospel we are given the opportunity to be fed by Jesus, who gives us His very Body and Blood to nourish us. In the sharing of God’s Word, and in the communion of His Body and Blood, we are reminded of all that was done for us by a loving God. In the act of remembering we are interiorly transformed into other “Christs”, “glorifying God” by our lives. If our lives are not changed for the better each and every time we celebrate the Eucharist, then there just might be something wrong with our spiritual life.
On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ may we be filled with gratitude for this most precious of gifts. May we be strengthened by a loving God who wishes to journey with us through an oftentimes troubled world. May we be nourished by God’s Body and Blood to face whatever life has in store for us.
“Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us,
In the land of life to see.” [Sequence]