Mother Church celebrates Sunday, June 02, 2013, the ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, as the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, more commonly known by its Latin title, “Corpus Christi” (the Body of Christ). Corpus Christi is a special feast to the Body and Blood of Christ introduced into the calendar of the Universal Church in 1264 when Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote the prayers and hymns for this feast.
Church historians tell us that this feast of Corpus Christi became a mandatory feast in the Roman Church in 1312. But nearly a century earlier, Saint Juliana of Mont Cornillon, promoted a feast to honor the Blessed Sacrament. From early age Juliana, who became an Augustinian nun in Liége, France, in 1206, had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and longed for a special feast in its honor. She had a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. She made known her ideas to the Bishop of Liége, who ordered that the feast be celebrated in his diocese. Pope Urban IV, after extolling the love of Our Savior as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
As I march
through my neighbourhood in procession this day behind the Blessed Sacrament
and alongside hundreds of my brothers and sisters, these words of Saint
Augustine are ringing in my ears: “Eat
the bread of heaven in a spiritual way. Come to it freed from sin. Even though
your sins occur daily, at least see to it that they are not mortal. Moreover,
before you approach the altar note well what you say: ‘Forgive us our
trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. If you forgive others,
God will forgive you. (Sermon on John 26, 11).
First Reading: Genesis
Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He pronounced this blessing: Blessed be Abraham by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High for handing over your enemies to you. And Abraham gave him a tithe of everything.
V/ The word of the Lord.
R/ Thanks be to
Genesis is the first of the first five books of the Bible. It deals with
the origin of the world, of mankind and of the people of Israel; the second is Exodus,
which recounts the Israelites’ escape from Egypt; the third is Leviticus,
which gives the lists of the laws of the priests of the tribe of Levi; the
fourth is Numbers, which gives the list of those who came out of Egypt and
wandered about in the desert, and the fifth is Deuteronomy, which recounts the main events at the end of the forty
years the Jewish people spent wandering in the desert under Moses. These five books form a unit known
collectively as the Pentateuch (from the Greek word for five books), or
as the Torah (the Hebrew word for the Law).
the passage of this day’s reading, Abraham has been fighting a war with one of
the northern kings who had taken Lot, Abraham’s brother, hostage. Abraham goes
to Lot’s rescue and emerges victorious. The local nations (Salem and Sodom)
recognize the blessing they receive through Abraham. In the case of Salem, which became Jerusalem
when King David made it his capital city several centuries later, there is an indication
that the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, was worshipped there under
the name of God Most High. Abraham acknowledges him as the Lord himself, ‘maker
of heaven and earth.’ As the Psalmist sings, “His abode has been established in
Salem, his dwelling place in Zion” (Ps 110:4).
In the name of
the God Most High, Abraham receives blessings from a priest-king called
Melchizedek. Abraham recognizes him as a priest and enters into a treaty of friendship
with him and offers him a tenth of what he brought back from war. A banquet
follows during which Melchizedek offers Abraham bread and wine and blesses him
in the name of the Most High, the name under which both of them worship the God
of heaven. His priesthood is considered to have been earlier and greater than
that of Aaron. The sacred writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews brings out the
resemblance between Melchizedek, the king-priest of Salem and Christ, which has
become traditional in the Church. The kingly priesthood of Christ did not have
its origin in Moses and Aaron but rather in Melchizedek of old.
In the New Testament, Melchizedek is portrayed as a type of priesthood of Christ, for Christ is truly the eternal priest and, like Melchizedek, does not belong to the priesthood of Aaron. In the light of all this, Christian liturgy sees the Eucharist in the offering of bread and wine by Melchizedek. Tradition sees him as a prefigure of the priests of the New Covenant.
Let us pray that
God may help us to remain faithful to the new covenant Christ instituted for
us. “Father, for your glory and our
salvation, you appointed Jesus Christ eternal High Priest. May the people he
gained for you by his blood come to share in the power of his cross and
resurrection by celebrating his memorial in the Eucharist, for he lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians
This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.” In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.” Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.
V/ The word of the Lord.
R/ Thanks be to
The city of Corinth was one of the most
important commercial cities in the Roman Empire. It was the capital of Achaia
(Achaia and Macedonia being the two provinces into which the Romans divided
Greece). Since it was a commercial city, it had a cosmopolitan population which
included people from Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece and a Jewish
population as well given that there was a synagogue in the city (Acts 18:4).
It was also a city with many religions
and with temples dedicated to all sorts of gods. It was, however, notorious for
its low level of morality. Saint Paul preached the Christian message in this
city and the Holy Spirit enabled him to found a Christian community there with
the help of Silas and Timothy during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:
1-18). Paul had arrived from Athens where he had failed to make many converts
despite his brilliant discourse at the Areopagus (Acts 17: 16-34). He was,
however, lucky in Corinth where he spent more than a year (50-52 AD), preaching
and making converts. However, when opposition to his preaching from local Jews
intensified, he left Corinth.
The passage of our meditation is the
traditional reading for this feast of Corpus Christi and Holy Thursday. Saint
Paul has heard of the abuses and other scandals in the community of Corinth,
especially the celebration of the Eucharist, which is simply scandalous. So he
writes to warn them to be careful not to forget what they had been taught about
the Eucharist. They should therefore not commit a sacrilege by failing to show
proper respect for the Eucharist. He clearly states that the Eucharist was
instituted by Christ himself, who is truly and really present in it. By
instituting the Eucharist, Christ instituted the priesthood that continues to
re-enact the Eucharist until the end of time. When he said, “Do this in
remembrance of me”, he ordered his apostles and their successors in the
priesthood to offer this sacrament. In
every Mass, we commemorate what Jesus did at the Last Supper.
In a letter he sent to the bishops of
the world on February 24, 1980, Blessed Pope John Paul II said that the
Eucharist is “the principal and central reason-of-being of the sacrament of the
priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution
of the Eucharist and together with it”.
Let us say
together this prayer which the Church includes in the prayers to be said after
Mass: “I beseech thee, most sweet Lord
Jesus, may your passion be the virtue which strengthens, protects and defends
me; your wounds, food and drink to nourish, inebriate and delight me; your
death, everlasting life for me; your cross, my eternal glory. I make this
prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Gospel: Luke 9: 11-17.
Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing. It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.” He replied, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” But they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, “Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty.” They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.
V/ The Gospel of the Lord.
R/ Praise to you
Lord Jesus Christ.
The miracle of
the multiplication of loaves is the only one common to the four Gospels. Like
Matthew and Mark, Luke links this miracle with the first prophecy of our Lord’s
Passion, indicating how Jesus prepared his disciples to celebrate the Eucharist
at the Last Supper, the act that Saint Paul describes in the second reading of
this day. Saint Luke tells us that “… taking the five loaves and the two fish
he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the
disciples to set before the crowd” (Lk 9: 16). These words remain at the heart of our
By feeding the
crowd, Jesus shows how sensitive he is to the people’s needs. He does not send
them away to feign for themselves. He takes the initiative to satisfy the
hunger of those who follow him and believe in him.
The message to
take home from this reading is that we must trust our Lord and turn to him in
times of need and he will always satisfy us. Sometimes we are confronted with so many
demands, like the apostles are faced with a huge crowd that we believe there is
no way out. Yet Jesus continues to tell us, as he does his apostles in this
Gospel, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” When we remind him of the
poverty of our means, as the apostles do, he steps in and gives us what we
need. All we have to do is trust him, turn to him and, through us, he will feed
In a similar
scene in Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples: “Gather up the
fragments left over, that nothing may be lost” (Jn 6:12). With this instruction
the Lord teaches us that material resources are a gift from God that must not
be wasted. The twelve baskets the disciples gather are reminiscent of the
abundance of God’s mercy for the twelve tribes of Israel and for us of the new
It is this
Eucharist, this sacrament of Christ’s abundance that we celebrate this day. In
the Eucharist Christ becomes the bread of life, what Saint Ignatius of Antioch
calls “the medicine of immortality”. Blessed Pope John Paul II declared October
2004 through October 2005 as the "Year of the Eucharist." In his Apostolic
Letter Mane nobiscum Domine he urged for the procession on Corpus Christi:
"This year let us also celebrate with particular devotion the Solemnity of
Corpus Christi, with its traditional procession. Our faith in the God who took
flesh in order to become our companion along the way needs to be everywhere
proclaimed, especially in our streets and homes, as an expression of our
grateful love and as an inexhaustible source of blessings." (no
As I mentioned
in the introduction to this day’s reflection, Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Christ
– is a feast that is at the center of the Church. It is at the center of our
faith. In it, we celebrate Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. When we receive the Blessed Sacrament we
reinforce our friendship with Jesus Christ.
When we take the Blessed Sacrament out to our quarters, we are not
involved in a show. It is our way of telling the world that we love our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ really present in the Blessed Sacrament. We are
telling the world what a friend we have in Jesus.
When we receive
Jesus at communion, he enters deep into our hearts and we are present to him in
a very special way. When we receive him, he empowers us for healing. We are
empowered to heal relationships in which there is hatred and the absence of
love. We are empowered to offer love to those who have no one to show them
love. As we walk behind the Blessed Sacrament this day, Christ is empowering us
to build a community of love in our Church rather than sow seeds of discord and
division. The Body and Blood of Christ must change us into better people, into
loving people, into people who listen to those who don’t have anyone to listen
to them; into people who spread love and joy around them.
The change that
the Blessed Sacrament brings to our lives must stand as witness to our faith.
Today, therefore, it is important for us to ask ourselves in what way the
Blessed Sacrament has changed us. As we receive Christ in the Blessed
Sacrament, let us ask ourselves what it means for Christ to be at the center of
our lives today. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in
him”, says the Lord.
Let us pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, we worship you living among us in the sacrament of your body and blood. Be for us in the Eucharist strength to live the mystery of your presence. May we offer to your Father in heaven the broken bread of undivided love. May we offer to our brothers and sisters a life poured out in loving service of that kingdom where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.”