Jun 1, 2013

The Body and Blood of Christ: Are we satisfied?

"Very bread good Shepherd tend us . . ."
Readings for the Solemnity: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/060213.cfm

Gen 14: 18-20
1 Cor 11: 23-26
Lk 9: 11b – 17

How much is too much? Despite our troubled economy, we still have more than we truly need.  Our most basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, and a decent education, is all we truly “need.” Obviously, we also want to have not just clothing but nice clothes: well made, comfortable, stylish.  Shelter brings to mind a nice house in a good and safe neighborhood. Food, well let’s have plenty of it.  An education should be more than just basic learning.  Why not go for the best one can find and afford so that one can attain a great career and become wealthy and secure, with a large bank account to boot. And then when we have all we want – we want more. Then we think of upgrades with the newest, sleekest technology and the largest number of megabites and gigabites and the fastest speed. Are we ever really satisfied?

This weekend we mark a beautiful Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi.  The Gospel is a story of those in great need: “Jesus . . . healed those who needed to be cured . . .” (Lk 9: 11b).  As the miracle story continues we hear of an even greater need – the crowd is hungry.  It is late and Jesus has taught and healed all day in this “deserted place.” The odds are against the meager food the Apostles find, “five loaves and two fish” for 5,000 men, not counting likely more women and children total. Their need is indeed great.  Who cares about the cars, beautiful homes in great neighborhoods, and an abundance of money? 

It strikes me that this dramatic setting is rich not only with signs of abundance but an indication of what the Holy Eucharist, the precious Body and Blood of Christ, is for us: a never ending source of plenty because it is Christ himself who provides the food. The gift of bread and fish, normal food to be eaten, is given by the incarnate God made flesh in Jesus.  It is the compassionate humanity of Jesus (God) which shines through this beautiful miracle story.  As both human and divine our God feeds us and connects with our experience and our need. I don’t think that is any ordinary act of giving.

Our first reading from Genesis 14 presents the somewhat obscure “Melchizedek, king of Salem” who brought out bread and wine as a kind of offering to bless Abram. As Melchizedek prays over Abram he blesses the God Most High, the “creator of heaven and earth.” This act of blessing, the offering of bread and wine, is clearly the reason for this Genesis reading on this Feast.  It assures us of another aspect of the Eucharist – that of a blessing upon all those who participate.  As we share, we are blessed by the God most High. Are we worthy of that generous act by God?

Although the Genesis story is the familiar use of bread and wine as we know from our Mass experience, the Gospel story has even more of an allusion to the Eucharist.  For there, Jesus takes the bread and fish. He blesses, breaks and distributes, with the help of the Apostles, this multiplied food to the hungry crowds.  Just as during our celebration of the Mass, the priest blesses, breaks and distributes the Body and Blood of Christ (with the assistance of other ministers) to the spiritually hungry assembly, here we see a connection to the selfless giving of Christ whose ultimate gift of salvation was achieved on the cross.  There his body and blood were shed and here is body and blood becomes our food - a gift only God can give. This is Christ given to us which is why we say I’ve “received” the Eucharist – I did not walk up to the altar and take it.

The abundance, twelve baskets, left over may remind us that what we have received is even more than we can perceive. The Eucharist is for us an invitation to turn ourselves to the Lord who alone can satisfy us more than any stuff we may pile up.  We are never satisfied with what we have because nothing of this world has eternal value.  Yet, we often shop and spend as if our lives depend on it. All things will pass away and though we all enjoy the beauty of creation and the wonders of science and technology, none of that can offer us what Christ alone can offer – himself as our food.

This Sunday, throughout the world, our Holy Father Pope Francis will lead a world-wide holy hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  Through the wonders of technology that adoration will be broadcast live from St. Peter’s Basilica at 5 p.m. Rome time.  However, for those of us in what would be Sunday morning Mass time zone, we are invited to take some time in prayer before the Eucharist later that day.  So, be sure to do so if you can on this significant Eucharistic Feast.  Hopefully, a holy hour of prayer and adoration will be provided in your parish. 

Pope Francis’ intentions for that hour are two:

First: For the Church spread throughout the world and united today as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.

Second: For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labour. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.

As we celebrate this beautiful Solemnity of the Holy Eucharist, it may be good for us to reflect on our level of satisfaction.  When I feel “hungry” or “restless” where do I go? Shopping?  When I feel lonely, what do I do? Have I ever taken some time to pray before the presence of Christ in the Tabernacle of my parish Church or attended an hour of Eucharistic adoration?

What about the Mass?  Is it just a social event, an obligation, a guilt trip? Or do I see it as a living encounter with the risen Lord of life as I join with my brothers and sisters in the community of faith?
O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament
have left us a memorial of your Passion,
grant us, we pray,
so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood
that we may always experience in ourselves
the fruits of your redemption.

(Collect of Solemnity)