May 27, 2016

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, its traditional Latin title. In all its celebrations, the Church has a twofold purpose. The first purpose, of course, is to call us to joyful worship of God and give him thanks and praise in the feast. The second purpose is to teach us.

So, this weekend the Church calls us to celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the feast of the Holy Eucharist, which the Church proclaims as its precious treasure, given to us by the merciful God. The Church asks us to reflect.

The first reading for this weekend is from Genesis. Like other books in the Old Testament, Genesis is more than merely history or the statements by prophets. Rather, each in its own way reveals the fact that God is the Creator, and did not leave humanity to its own fate after the initial creation and after human sin.

Instead, God reached out in mercy, sending figures such as Abraham and Melchizedek, mentioned in this reading, to clear the way between God and humanity.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem, better known as Jerusalem, was a man of faith, as was Abraham. The gifts described in this reading that he offered to God symbolize their own limitations as well as the nourishment needed for life itself. They praised God’s mercy.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians gives us the second reading. It is a revelation of the Last Supper, using the same words found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The presence of this story in all these sources tells us how important the first Christians regarded the Last Supper. Celebrating the Eucharist in ancient Corinth tells us how important the Eucharist was to Christians even in the first century.

Finally, the words are unambiguous. They say, “This is my body that is for you,” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor 11:24-25). Straightforward and clear, the words say nothing about similarity or symbol. They are direct definitive statements.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. A great crowd gathered to hear Jesus. Mealtime came. The Apostles had virtually nothing to give the people, only five loaves and two fish. In the highly symbolic use of numbers in days when scientific precision was rarely known, five and two meant something paltry and insufficient.

Jesus used gestures which he also used at the Last Supper, gestures actually a part of Jewish prayers before meals. He then sent the disciples to distribute the food. All had their fill. After all had eaten, 12 baskets were needed for the leftovers. To return to the symbolism of numbers, 12 meant overabundance and lavishness.

Reflection

The Church on this feast calls us to focus our minds on the Holy Eucharist and our hearts on God.

In the second reading, from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, the Church takes us back to the Last Supper, but also to the beliefs of the Christians who lived a generation or so after the Last Supper. For them, the reality of the Eucharist was clear. Paul was clear about it. “This is my body.” “This is my blood.”

The bread becomes Christ’s body, the wine Christ’s blood.

The first reading reminds us that, throughout history, God has reached out to people to nourish their starving, fatigued souls.

Finally, the Gospel tells us of God’s immense love. When our soul hungers, God supplies, not in any rationed sense, but lavishly. This outpouring of spiritual nourishment comes in and through Christ, the victim, and the victor, of Calvary.

God’s love still nourishes us through the Eucharist in the Church, as it was long ago on the hillside when the Apostles assisted Jesus in feeding the multitudes. †

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