Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle C


What if the bread and wine change, and we don’t?”

I once came across that very question. On this feast celebrating the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, it is a fitting question to ask. The readings for today give us a lot on which to ‘chew’. They each present an aspect of what we in the Catholic Christian tradition have come to call Eucharist.

The first reading, from the very first book of the Bible, describes how the priest Melchizedek made an offering of bread and wine on behalf of Abram and his people. Today we can see the Eucharistic imagery contained in this story. The Eucharist most certainly is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

The second reading, from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, presents us with the image of Eucharist as a commemorative meal. The Last Supper was probably a celebration of the Passover Seder. To the Jews, remembering an event did not simply mean thinking about something in the past. It meant experiencing the event in the present. Not a reenactment of the event, but the actual event. When Jews celebrate the Passover Seder, they are with Moses and the people of Israel on the night before they were lead out of slavery. Likewise, when we celebrate the Eucharistic meal, we are with Christ and His disciples ‘on the night before he died’. Before you scoff at the notion, remember, in God’s time, there is no past, present or future. To God, all things are present.

Finally, the Gospel presents us with the image of a sacred meal. God provided for all those gathered in His name. Recently I attended a luncheon thanking those who lead the many ministries in my parish. There were fifty or sixty people in attendance. We were seated eight to a table. The image in today’s Gospel of groups of fifty sitting patiently on a hillside to be fed bread and fish comes to mind. Of course, what is particulary powerful in that example is that those that were being nourished at the luncheon did not simply eat and run. They are living out their baptismal promises. The luncheon was a time to celebrate what was done, and 'fuel up' for what was left to be done!

Remember that Jesus instructed the disciples to feed the multitudes. We are called to take an active part in nourishing our community, physically, mentally and spiritually. Even when we do not think we have it in us to do so, God will provide. The great Catholic writer Thomas Merton once noted that. “It helps me to remember that I need to trust that God will provide through me, not from me.” That is a lesson those disciples most certainly learned on the hillside that day.

And, it is one we must learn also. We often hear it said that “You are what you eat.” We must ask ourselves today if that is really true. Do we tend to those who need our care? Do we clothe and shelter those with nothing? Do we feed those who are hungry? Do we visit those who are alone? Jesus did all of these things, and commissioned us to do the same in his name. He provided us with the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment. It is truly viaticum, food for the journey. What if the bread and wine change and we do not?

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