Scripture: Lectionary 170: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ ( Corpus Christi). Genesis 14:18-20. Psalm 110:188.8.131.52 I Corinthians 11:23-26. Luke 9:11-17:
This feast is one of the first ever to be celebrated after the Pentecost experience when the apostles and those gathered in the upper room shared in the “breaking of the bread.” Through what became known as the Eucharist and the Mass this same sacrament has been said every day since that first event after the Holy Spirit had descended upon the one hundred and twenty gathered in the cenacle or upper room. St. Paul is the first author in the New Testament to refer to this presence of Jesus in the Eucharist by telling us it was already an established tradition well before he wrote I Corinthians in 57 A.D. His words are clear about the reality of Jesus being present while being remembered in what He had done at the Last Supper in the anticipation of the Passover Meal so dear to his own people.
The liturgy chooses the miracle of the loaves and the fish from three evangelists consecutively in its festival or Sunday cycle to recall words of Jesus that are similar to those that took place at the Last Supper. When we combine all of these references including the feeding of the five thousand from John and relate them to what the evangelists record as the words at the Last Supper we have the foundation for our understanding what the Eucharist is as a sacrament. We are fortunate to have such a multiplicity of texts from the New Testament on this greatest of the actions that Jesus has given us.
Since this is the C cycle in the liturgical year we listen to Luke’s narrative concerning the five thousand who are fed. (see Luke 9:10b-17; Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:1-15)). These are the parallels to Luke’s account. There are two such miracles of multiplying the bread in Mark and Matthew who follows Mark so closely. ( See of feeding in Mark and in Matthew (see Mark6:32-44; 8:1-10; Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39). John also has an account of the feeding of the five thousand in John 6:1-15. However, the liturgical reading from John for one of the three celebrations of the feast is taken from John 6: 51-58 where Jesus speaks so concretely about his Body and Blood that many no longer believe in him and cease to follow him. These various themes of the Eucharist give us plenty of Scriptural passages to meditate upon on this feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord.
Why would the Church choose the selection from Genesis about Melchizekek and Abraham? And then follow up with the Psalm 110? The symbolism of a priest who has no genealogy mentioned and who offers bread and wine in the presence of the great Patriarch of faith is taken as a symbol for what Jesus is as Messiah and what he does in a similar ritual at the Last Supper. Psalm 110 is often cited in the New Testament for Jesus himself refers to it and then the authors of the New Testament follow with their citation of it. In the Middle Ages these symbols helped Christians to see Jesus as priest, prophet, and king (messiah). We frequently pray Psalm 110 in the Liturgy of the Hours on a Sunday and on feast days. The name Melchizedek is connected with peace and with unity with Abraham thus it is associated with the effects the Eucharist should have among believers—peace and unity. This is to be extended to everyone. Jesus is always whispering in our ears, “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” He does this in the Eucharist.
We see the Scriptures attesting to all that is done in the sacrament of the Church called the Eucharist (Thanksgiving). Jesus lifts his eyes in prayer, takes the bread, blesses it, and gives it to be distributed to the hungry people gathered around him. These words and actions of Jesus are also present in the very words of the institution of the Eucharist.
In many countries this day accompanies the celebration with processions with the Blessed Sacrament in the streets where people gather, sing, and pray as the procession moves on to designated altars or shrines. This tradition is seen especially in Italy, Spain, France, Austria, and Germany. Devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is at the center of these processions on the Feast of Corpus Christi.
On this day a Sequence or Sung Hymn or Poem to the Eucharist is read or chanted. In this poetic presentation one has both a way of praying and also deepening what is contained in the mystery of the Eucharist. This could easily be an excellent Night Prayer for each of us. It has a calming effect on us and thus leads to a peaceful night of wholesome sleep; thus closing a day in honor of the Sacrament of Jesus’ Presence among us. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.