The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, (Corpus Christie) Sunday
Reading I Genesis 14:18-20
Reading II 2 Corinthians 11:23-26
Gospel Luke 9:11-17
So today in the first reading you hear about Melchizedek. We don’t hear a lot about Melchizedek, but we understand that he was a priest of God. Now this is before Abram was renamed Abraham and it was after Abram and his people defeated a few armies of kings. Melchizedek came to Abram and gave him bread and wine and, thanks to God, of course Abram gave a tenth of the bread and wine back to Melchizedek.
One of the things we have to remember is that Melchizedek lived before Moses and so he lived before the tribes of Levites, who were the priests of the Lord. So when Melchizedek comes to Abram, what we hear is that he gives bread and wine to the Lord our God. He doesn’t bring a sacrifice of bulls or lambs, what he brings is a foreshadowing, what we ourselves bring before the Lord during Mass. Bread and wine are brought forth so that they may be made into the body and blood of Christ so that Jesus Christ will come down. It is something that we can’t really understand, we know it happens, how it happens through the grace of God by the Holy Spirit coming down — but it is one of the mysteries of the faith.
It is something that we know to be true and if we need any proof we can look at the Eucharistic miracles that have taken place over the centuries and still continue today. What has happened is that through the faith, the host has started bleeding, and there is a place in Italy where the host has become a piece of flesh. This is something we cannot explain. We know that it happened because it has been proved scientifically that, yes, what was taken, was the flesh of a heart. It is an amazing thing.
We also hear in the second reading Paul telling us about how men are called to take the bread, bless it, break it and say “in memory of me.” And when he takes the wine and blesses it he says, “Do this in memory of me.” That’s what we repeat in each and every Eucharist during the celebration of Mass.
We hear in the Gospel something that at first does not seem to be fitting in the first and second reading because we hear about the feeding of the five thousand. We hear how the disciples say, “Send them home. They need to eat. They need to rest and so we need to send them to their villages so they can buy their food and take their rest.”
And Jesus says, “Give them some food yourselves.” They reply, “We only have five loaves of bread and a limited amount of fish and we cannot do this by ourselves. There is not nearly enough to feed them.” So Jesus says, “Tell them to sit down in groups of fifty,” and he takes the bread and he gives thanks to God and does the same with the fish, and when everyone was fed there are still twelve wicker baskets full.
One of the things that we are called to understand from the Gospel is that when Jesus gives of himself there is more than enough, and nothing that we do diminishes or reduces the amount that Jesus gives us. We can’t. There is no possible way that what we receive from God will reduce what he has to give. We also remember the number twelve — there were twelve baskets. There were twelve tribes of Israel. We know that the church is the new Israel.
There is more than enough for each and every one of us. There is more than enough for everyone in the world. And when we have an understanding of the great mystery, and the mercy and love of God for us so that not only does he die on the cross for us but also he couples himself enough so that he takes the appearance of bread and wine; we realize that, my gosh, of course we should be on fire with our faith, of course we should be sharing our faith and say, “Jesus Christ is amazing and the gifts that God gives us in the sacraments, in all of the sacraments are amazing. Yes, we should share our faith like many denominations do, like other religions do. Of course, I want to be a part of this.”
When we talk to one another outside of church, yes, we should be sharing our faith, sharing our experiences, sharing our trials and tribulations because we know that we will build one another up. When we build one another up, each and every one of us is encouraged.
When we encounter Catholics who do not come to Mass who say, “There is nothing in it for me. I can praise God outside.”
Well, yes, you can appreciate God outside and appreciate the gifts that God gives us. Of course, homilies should be enriching and fire us up, but to say that there is nothing in the celebration of the Mass for us is missing the point that each and every one of us comes together and worships the body and blood of Christ. We receive the true body and blood of Christ. We receive a gift greater than anyone else can give us. We receive body and soul the humanity, mercy and love into ourselves through the grace of God — that is more earthshattering, that is more life-changing than the best homily. Sometimes it is hard for us to get our minds wrapped around that mystery, but if we as Catholics truly believe what we profess, imagine what, through the grace of God, we can accomplish in the world.
St. Teresa of Avila said, “Go and set the world ablaze.” Another saint said, “Go and set the world on fire and how I wish it were already ablaze.” This is the fire of purification, this is the fire that burns in our hearts. To say, “Jesus Christ has changed my life, and it is not always easy to pray and it is not always easy to live life as a Christian, but I know Jesus has changed it and I know that in the Eucharist he gives me himself, and I know that God’s love for me outweighs any sin that I may commit.”
And yes, including myself, we need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and accept that gift of grace and ask God’s forgiveness, and what a wonderful gift that is. Afterwards, I know I can joyfully say, “Yes, I know I am receiving the body and blood of Christ, not because of my worth, but by that fact that Jesus Christ himself has forgiven my sins; and not through any merit I have, but through the grace of God, through his grace and his mercy and his love.
So as we continue throughout our day, and continue throughout our lives, we pray that each and every one of us may grow in our understanding of the Eucharist, and that each and everyone of us may grow in our devotion for the Eucharist.
Yes, ten years ago we went through a work in process with other parishes and we were known as St. Mary’s — today our parish name is Blessed Sacrament. So as parishioners we are called to ask, “Why is our parish called Blessed Sacrament? Why is that a good name? As much as we honor Mary, as much as we honor the saints, what is it about the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, that doesn’t impact my life as a member of the this parish?”
Father Adam Pritchard is parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, IL.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0013)