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Corpus Christi (C)
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Readings for the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, Cycle C 

1. Genesis 14, 18-20

  • Melchizidek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  Now this didn’t happen the other day!  Let me project a notion of distant time, paying special attention to the blessing with bread and wine, the very gifts we use today.
  • The bread and wine evoke Passover as well as Eucharist.  Are such vital connections between past and present lost on our rootless age?  Or do these rituals help to anchor us in our lifelong convictions and struggles?  The way I read will tell the church what I think.
  • I hear the name God Most High three times in these three verses.  Abram has just finished a rescue operation up the Jordan and beyond Damascus.  According to the sacred author he did not accomplish it all by himself.
  • God delivered your foes into your hand.  This is the only report we have in our passage about the rescue mission, so I will make the reference clear.  In fact, I can take all the time in the world on this and the next short passage.
  • Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.  This is what I expected to see at the start of the reading!  The Bible is filled with people promising gifts to God for favors granted, such as long life and victory over enemies.  Even before Moses and the Levites there were offerings like this. 
  • Climax: Blessed be God Most High.  God stands at the center of this passage and of our lives.
  • Message for our assembly: The Bible, especially within the psalms, shows that the peoples never gave themselves the credit for great achievements.  We have much to re-learn from our ancestors in the faith, at a time of exaggerated hero worship.
  • I will challenge myself: To use my best commemoration voice as I recall a very lengthy and meaningful ceremony from very long ago. 

2. I Corinthians 11, 23-26

  • I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.  Once again we are in the presence of tradition, expressed as so often in the form of a story.  Every detail is important and I have all the time in the world to dedicate to them all.
  • The passage repeats a ritual with which we are so familiar.  How can we hear it afresh today?  I will try to break it into its parts.  The apostle was appealing to the church’s concern for everyone in the community. 
  • On the night he was handed over.  At the lowest point of his ministry Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread.  I see sports teams fall far behind in a game but keep giving their best effort.  Jesus is not keeping up appearances, and is not redefining defeat as victory.  His love for his friends is always the same: my body that is for you.  But the consequences of that love deepened because of the way he died.  Ask those who honor Monseņor Romero or the Imam Hussein why they are motivated to suffer for others.
  • This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  I would emphasize ‘covenant,’ though I want to say the whole phrase so that everyone realizes that everything has changed.  I hope that a few of my listeners will recall the Letter to the Hebrews as I speak today.
  • Do this in remembrance of me.  There is a reason this passage is proclaimed in our assemblies at every Holy Week and Corpus Christi celebration.  And it is “at your command that we celebrate this Eucharist.”  As Christians have done over and over for centuries.  Can I convey a sense of this long history in my voice?
  • Climax: You proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.  We tend to forget that we do just that in every Eucharist.
  • The message for our assembly: As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup...  This tradition joins us with each other and with the entire church.  Let us continue to pray for a leadership that makes this gift of God available to everyone.
  • I will challenge myself: To make the congregation hear this very familiar passage once again and with new ears.

Gospel. Luke 9, 11-17

  • There is a feeding of a multitude in today’s Gospel.  Let me listen carefully so that I can help our assembly listen carefully.
  • Jesus received the crowds and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God.  The passage begins in a normal voice and we don’t expect any surprise.
  • As the day was drawing to a close the Twelve approached him and said, Dismiss the crowd.  First I notice an open-ended prayer service.  We always have a dismissal at the end of mass, and the Byzantines even remind the presider to “give the blessing.”  But Jesus was of a different mind.  Then I notice that we are late in the day, and I think of the “eschatological banquet.”  So much the more reason for the people to stay with Jesus (as he stayed with the Emmaus couple).
  • He said to them, Give them some food yourselves.  I notice how in this version the evangelist involves the disciples in the feeding, by collecting five loaves and two fish, by making them all sit down and by setting the meal before the crowd.  But Jesus sets the tone from the beginning.
  • Now the men there numbered about five thousand.  The detail (for me) is not more important than the rest.  I just want to indicate the size of the crowd.
  • They all ate and were satisfied.  They filled twelve wicker baskets with leftover fragments.  I hear an allusion to the manna that the Israelites ate in the desert.  Can I get that across?  Why not?  since we already heard the words deserted place and the generous portions everyone received.
  • Climax: Looking up to heaven he said the blessing over them, broke them and gave them.  Here is the link to our Eucharist and also to that phrase from the Sermon on the Mount: “Your heavenly Father feeds them.”
  • Message for our assembly: Are we in a hurry to be dismissed, or do we wait on all the words of Jesus?  Is the Eucharist a weekly duty or the high point of the week?
  • I will challenge myself: To help my listeners retrieve the keys to this story by my own understanding of the symbolism that runs through it.

From Word to Eucharist: We felt very close as we listened to the words of Jesus to his disciples today.  Abram remembered his nephew and rescued him.  Jesus remembered us all, died for us and now lives with us and in us.  May nothing in heaven or earth disturb our sense of unity around the Lord’s Body and Blood.

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