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Readings for the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, Cycle A

1. Deuteronomy 8, 2-3 and 14-16
  • We begin with the word Remember.  I will make it echo, first by pausing briefly after I say it, and then by taking seriously what we are supposed to remember.
  • Forty years’ journeying in the desert.  That is a long and harsh experience, and why would I want to remember it?  Scripture tells the history of God’s actions in our midst.  It is what God does for us that we should remember. 
  • Behind it all was a purpose.  God wanted to test you by affliction and find out your intention.  I do not hear the word ‘wander.’  And when I speak I will make God’s purpose clear.
  • This journey forms part of the covenant between God and the people.  Was it your intention to keep the commandments?  God doesn’t just give.  God tests, too.
  • Listen to all the wonderful works God has done for Israel.  Directed all your journeying, fed you with manna, brought you out of the land of Egypt, guide you, brought forth water for you, fed you in the desert.  I want to shower all those action words on my listeners, to show that God acts for them and for us.
  • Climax: Not by bread alone does one live, the words Jesus spoke in the desert.  Strange to hear these words on the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, but they are central to our faith in Jesus.
  • Message for our assembly: Think of the hardship and deprivation we have felt in our lives.  Remember that they are the preferred way to learn of God and come closer to God.  Let us all confront the rough edges of the passage: forty years, afflicted with hunger, unknown food, place of slavery, vast and terrible desert, serpents and scorpions, parched and waterless ground, flinty rock. 
  • I will challenge myself: To speak of the desert experience in a way that encourages my listeners to seek the desert in their own lives.  Because they are deprived of many comforts there, they can depend ever more on God.  As I make the linkage, I may encourage our homilist to make the further tie between the covenant with Israel and the living bread Jesus promises in the Gospel of today.

 

2. I Corinthians 10, 16-17

  • I am peeking at a notice, written centuries ago, to another church full of factions.  The apostle worked so hard to assure a spirit of unity, of community among those he had evangelized.  Here he appeals to the liturgy that they celebrate together.
  • It is a brief reading but full of impact.  John Foley’s popular communion hymn is based on it.  Clarence Rivers and other liturgists made it the centerpiece of their communion hymns, too.  Let me relish every word, every syllable, because they all apply so well to the church today, blossoming in movements and opinions and factions but called to communion by Christ. 
  • I will emphasize two kinds of words.  First are our links to Christ: a participation in the blood... a participation in the body of Christ.  The cup of blessing, the bread that we break, are ways to Christ that everyone can see and appreciate.
  • The second kind of words has to do with our links to each other.  One body, for we all partake.  With the sweep of my eyes and the authority of my voice I help to tie all of us together as I remind everyone of the communion we share today.
  • Central point:  It is important that I say “one” with feeling.  There were literally one bread and one cup at the first liturgies, and so there was no loss of symbolism.  In our mass today the bread is already broken into wafers and there are numerous cups.  We do not see one bread and one cup; yes, the presider holds one large host and one principal cup, but those are destined for his consumption alone.  The other breads and cups are for us.  So what represents the unity of the church?  My witness today can help, and so can our love for each other. 
  • The message for our assembly: To see the one bread and cup that Christ offers us today, to know that our individual communion is part of something bigger.
  • I will challenge myself: To not hurry this brief reading, but to treasure the inspiration of the apostle and make it come alive for our own church’s benefit.  What appeal can I make to our own factions as I read?  What warmth, what conscious pauses, what inflections in my voice will bring out the insistence I want?

 

John 6, 51-58

  • After I read this passage a few times, it dawned on me that the evangelist is using some very plain and direct language to describe the life of the Christian with Jesus.  I need to say the words with care.  If I recite it automatically, my listeners will either hear a shocking and obscene claim or a bunch of nonsense.  Do you think I’m kidding?  It’s right in the passage: They quarreled among themselves saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
  • Jesus brought a message of abundant life, everlasting life.  He brings us true food, true drink, not some cheap imitation.  That is what gives me courage to be like Jesus, and to proclaim to others the goal of our lives, the life of the world, eternal life, and resurrection on the last day.
  • In the passage we learn how to be like him.  More than any social event, the meal signifies and brings about our union with others.  This is the meaning of his words: Eat my flesh and drink my blood.  Because we live in the days of the resurrection, there should be no confusion about what Jesus intends.
  • Central point:  There are so many graphic images that describe for us our union with Jesus.  Probably the most gripping for us would be ‘flesh.’  Jesus became fully human, as the evangelist says at the beginning of his Gospel: The word was made flesh.  To become like Jesus we must also become fully human, committed to the redemption of all that is good and beautiful in this world.  What better way to express the commitment except through that embarrassing word, flesh, alive and decaying all at the same time!  John insists on it, because he puts it in the mouth of Jesus five times.  The same goes for the word blood.  Jesus is no spiritual being and neither are we. 
  • Message for our assembly: Let us accept this invitation to live forever.
  • I will challenge myself: To speak the images of flesh and blood boldly and with faith, because our too spiritual church needs to hear them today.

Word to Eucharist: In this meal we are becoming one with Jesus, and he becomes one with us.  This meal is the sign of God's approach to us and our entry into the Kingdom.  This has incredible meaning for our assembly; we become community in this one Lord.

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