The Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christ Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Give Them Something To Eat Yourselves”.
The three readings of today invite us to reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist and tell us that it is nourishment. It is not a medicine that acts automatically; it must be received with faith, that is, by accepting the commitment that the act of eating and drinking the ‘Body and Blood of Christ’ entails. The Eucharist was part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world since the earliest times of God’s relationship with human beings.
All the three readings insist on the close link between the Eucharist and life, between the Bread that is Christ and the bread that nourishes the body. One cannot be in communion with the Body of the Lord without sharing the material bread with our brothers and sisters.
We all need the Eucharist. It is food for our faith, and for our Christian journey. In consuming the Eucharist, we become what we receive: Jesus dying and rising. Perhaps we can let the grace and peace of the Risen and Gloried Lord be seen more clearly in how we live the mercy into which we are drawn.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
The first reading of today is the account of the following event: Abraham was returning home after fighting against some kings who had kidnapped his nephew Lot. He was hungry and tired as he reached Salem (Jerusalem), where Melchizedek was ‘king and a priest’ of God, Most High. He is not a priest in the sense we normally imply, not a cultic priest from the Levite line of Aaron. When he was informed that Abraham was approaching his town, Melchizedek came out of the city to meet him, offering bread and wine, and then blessed him invoking the name of God. Note that Melchizedek does not bless the bread and wine, he blesses Abraham. And that is where his priesthood lies, in his ability to bestow a blessing in the name of the Most High. Melchizedek seems to be God-appointed, not a priest by heritage but by special commission from the Most High.
What has all this to do with the feast we celebrate today? Christians have always related Melchizedek as to the figure of Christ and to the priests of the New Covenant who offer up bread and wine on the altar. There are however other signs that link this king-priest with the Eucharist. What did Melchizedek do? He shared his bread and wine with the hungry ones. This generous behaviour is certainly linked to the Eucharist since one cannot celebrate this sacrament without sharing goods with our brothers and sisters in need.
Who ate the bread and drank the wine of Melchizedek? It was the pagan people of Salem and the children of Abraham, the Jews. It is as if these two peoples so far apart and enemies had sat down at the same eating table. Isn’t this what happens during the Eucharistic meal? Isn’t it the place and time when all peoples should be brothers and sisters?
As we all share in the priesthood of the baptized, it is good to consider what true priestliness is. We may not all be called to bless the bread and wine, but we can ask for God’s blessing on our children, our communities, our projects, and our daily bread.
The Psalm also mentions Melchizedek. It belongs to the group used originally in the coronation ritual of a new king. Although a king had priestly duties, he did not belong to the priestly tribe of Levi. Neither did Jesus, and therefore his priesthood was identified in Hebrews with that of Melchizedek.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
Paul in 1 Corinthians gives us our earliest account of the institution of the Eucharist. Paul tells the Christians of Corinth about the institution of the Eucharist to make them understand the absurdity of their behaviour.
During the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke it and said: This is my Body, which is broken for you; then he took wine and said: This is my Blood, shed for you. He meant by this how he would die: his Body broken up and his Blood shed. Every time that the Christian community breaks the Eucharistic bread, it makes Jesus present, the same Jesus who gives his life for love of humankind. A community that celebrates the ‘breaking of bread’ without identifying to the life and virtues of Christ standing for unity, sharing, equality and reciprocal self-giving; but instead harbours hatred, selfishness and mortal sin is eating and drinking its own condemnation. Such a community is reducing the sacrament to a lie.
We should keep well in mind that the Eucharistic bread is a gift, not a prize or a reward for our good works. It is food offered to ‘sinners’ not only to ‘just’ people. Though we see that we are unworthy, we should continue celebrating the Eucharist. It reminds us of our sinful condition and it urges us to become what we, as yet, are not: bread broken up for the brethren.
Through it, the Covenant of Sinai by which Israel became a people was renewed, as Jeremiah had foretold. If the Corinthian Christians had not been abusing the Eucharist, we would not possess this account of Paul.
In today’s Gospel, we read the passage of the multiplication of loaves and fish. Jesus feeds more than five thousand people with what the Apostles thought was too little to do anything with. This is the only miracle of Jesus related in all of the ‘four Gospels’. The ‘Twelve’ have come back from their tour. Never was a time when Jesus needed more to be alone with them, so he took them to the region of Bethsaida. Along the beautiful lake of Galilee they will rest, pray and share. But when the people discovered where Jesus had gone they followed him and he welcomed them.
This is typical of Jesus, welcoming an unexpected crowd, which invades a hard-won privacy. How would we feel if we had sought out some lonely place to be with our most intimate friends and all of a sudden a noisy crowd of people turned up shouting their insistent demands?
Sometimes we are too busy to be disturbed, but to Jesus human needs came first over everything. Jesus’ concern was always for others, for the community, a human request for him never sounded disturbing or inconvenient.
Then evening came and the Apostles’ request to Jesus is, “Send the crowd away!” there is nothing we can do for them. Jesus’ suggestion is instead, “Give them some food yourselves!” There is something you can do, “Bring the ‘little’ you have!”
Left to their own resources, the task seems impossible. However, in and through Jesus, there is enough to eat for a crowd and even something left over. Jesus does not fulfil his mission alone. He involves his disciples. They still have to learn that this mission is not something they do through their power, but only through the power of Jesus and together with him. Jesus insists that they do their part also. He challenges them to give what ‘little’ they have so that the people can eat. And when the ‘little’ is in Jesus’ hands, the miracle happens, turning into more than enough for everybody.
Jesus still needs the service of human hands. By looking at Jesus’ compassion and concern for human needs, and by meditating on them we will also gradually learn that through us, ‘all peoples needs can also be supplied’. The Apostles now begin to understand that to participate in ‘Jesus’ mission’ means to rely not only on their own resources but to trust fully in Jesus’ Word; and that providing spiritual nourishment for the people would be part of that mission.
Whenever we want to do something great for God and plan to go out to evangelize others, we experience the same temptation as the Apostles. We tend to look at our own strength and resources and sometimes get discouraged and even give up. We need to learn to bring in whatever we have, and do with generosity whatever we can do, but trust that God will take over and provide the rest.
The way the miracle is told has influenced the way the early Christian community celebrated the Eucharist. The actions and ‘Word’ of Jesus when he multiplies the five loaves and two fish is exactly what he will do at the Last Supper with his Apostles. He looks up to heaven and blesses them, breaks the bread and the fish and gives it to the people.
After his Resurrection, the ‘two disciples of Emmaus’ will recognize him at the gesture, when “he took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them”. The blessing and breaking of bread will be at the heart of the liturgy for the early Christians. For them, and for us today, the breaking of the ‘Bread’, the Eucharist, is the ultimate sign that Jesus gave up his very life for us and is still with us today.
This feast of the ‘Body and Blood’ of the Lord turns our thought to the subject of spiritual nourishment. We need the Eucharist. It is food for our faith, and for our Christian journey. St Paul reminds us that, each time we celebrate it, we proclaim the death of the Lord. We cannot separate the Eucharist from the daily dying and rising of a faithful Christian life (dying to self and to sin).
The Eucharist is the heart of Catholic life. It is the source, centre, and summit of the whole life of the Church. It is the ‘Prime Sacrament’, the one from which all others come and the one to which the others point to. We call this sacrament “blessed,” a biblical word which means a communication of God’s life to us. “Blessed Sacrament”: is an apt name for the sacrament which gives us Christ himself.
When we participate in the Eucharistic Feast it is not only the substance, ‘the inner life’, of the bread and wine that is changed into the ‘Body and Blood of Christ’; it is also us who are changed. We become what we eat, that is, we grow in the likeness of Christ.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following ‘Corpus Christi’, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ Sunday, Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … In the first reading Melchizidek who was a Canaanite king and priest of Salem, came out of the city to offer Abraham bread and wine and God’s blessing to the hungry and tired Abraham after his ordeal. Melchizidek representing the pagan people of Salem was in true communion with the Lord by his sharing the material bread with those in need. Do we share our table with those in need as the Lord shares his table with us?
Mon. … As we all share in the ‘priesthood of the baptized’ it is important for us to reflect on what true priestliness is. We may not all be called to ‘bless the bread and the wine’, but we can ask for God’s blessing on our children, our communities, our projects and our daily bread to be shared with our brothers and sisters.
Tues. … Christian tradition sees Melchizidek as a figure of Christ because he sacrificed to his ‘god’ bread and wine, just as Christ offers himself in the form bread and wine. This god was later identified with the true God of Abraham (Nm 24:16; Ps 46:4). This is also an affirmation of monotheism: that there can only be one true God. Do we worship the ‘One’ true God, or do we sometimes fall prey to the idols offered to us by the world?
Wed. … Paul teaches us that celebrating the breaking of the ‘Bread’ without identifying to the life and virtues of Christ is eating and drinking our own condemnation. The Lord in his love for all even when we fall into sinfulness has offered us the sacrament of Reconciliation so that we may as his family continue to share his table with him.
Thur. … Often we treasure the thought of some lonely place where we may spend some quality time with our loved ones. Consider if such a wonderful wish was granted to us, how willing would we be to be disturbed by a noisy crowd of people who demanded our urgent attention to a problem that most would consider to be not theirs or impossible to sort out? Would we drop everything like Jesus and offer our help or would we be tempted to send them away as the Apostles suggested?
Frid. … Today these miracles are still performed by Jesus though his Spirit. Jesus still needs the service of human hands and challenges us to give what little we have for the poor and the needy. When this ‘little act of charity’ is put into the hands of Jesus, the miracle happens. Furthermore, we as Christians need to understand that we are to trust in the ‘Good News’ in order to participate in Jesus’ continuing mission to provide spiritual nourishment to all those who have lost the ‘Way’.
Sat. … We all need the Eucharist. It is food for our faith, and for our Christian journey. The Eucharist was part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world since the earliest times of God’s relationship with human beings. Before Abraham was named accordingly, God was giving indications that something mysterious and awesome was connected to Melchizidek’s offering of bread and wine. On this feast of ‘Corpus Christi’ we commemorate the mystery and awe of the Holy Eucharist in our own time and give thanks for God’s plans for it long ago.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that when we celebrate Your gift of the Holy Eucharist, may we become what we eat, may we continue to grow in the likeness of Christ.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.