Corpus Christi 2010 (6 June 2010)
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, is a special celebration of a special celebration. It could be compared I suppose to the way in which the celebration of some birthdays or anniversaries is more special than others. The celebration of the Mass is always special – and always has been right from the time of the Apostles – but today we remind ourselves of just what a glorious gift we have in the Blessed Sacrament; the Bread of Life, celebrated in the Mass.
Let’s have a look at the readings.
Melchizadek was both a priest and a king which was not unusual in the ancient Middle East and he was king of Salem – probably the city we know today as Jerusalem. The incident we heard about in the first reading happened after Abraham returned from rescuing his nephew Lot from some foreign kings who had raided his town and carried off with them all his family and their possessions. Melchizadek welcomed Abraham back with bread and wine and blessed him giving thanks to God for his victory. Bread and wine were customarily offered in sacrifice in thanksgiving to God being amongst the “first fruits” of the earth and Melchizadek’s offering prefigures what Jesus did at the Last Supper. In the first Eucharistic Prayer, the priest prays, “Look with favour on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizadek.”
In the passage we heard from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he is responding to reports that there is serious dissension in the church in Corinth because of the inappropriate way in which they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper. In the earlier verses he says that if they are only coming together to socialise, eat and drink then they are showing contempt for God’s church. He reminds them of their Christian tradition and of the origin of the Eucharist. He reminds them that in the Eucharist they remember Christ’s death and resurrection as they await his return. Three stages of time are brought together in the Eucharist: the past as we use the exact words and elements of the Last Supper; the present in which we are blessed and nourished with the Bread of Life; and the future when we will share in the sacred banquet in heaven. This is the oldest written account we have of the celebration of the Eucharist in the early church written about 20 years after the crucifixion; preceding the earliest Gospel.
The feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish is the only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels. The remarkable thing about the miracle is not so much how many people were fed but rather how Jesus did this. Jesus was capable of doing anything; he could have turned the grass or the stones into bread. He didn’t need anybody’s help. Instead he leaves the responsibility with the disciples. He receives from them the five loaves and two fish, says the blessing and then gives the offering to the disciples to distribute – and there is more than enough for everyone. He uses the gifts that they bring to him to reveal to them the very real presence of God in their midst. In the Mass, our offering becomes the very Real Presence of Christ.
The Holy Eucharist is the most important, central and sacred act of worship we know as Christians. It is the Lord’s gift to us that he may always be with us.
In the Eucharist Jesus Christ is with us and within us; the profound wonder of Our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, sustaining and strengthening us for the journey of our lives.
There is a story that has been made into a movie called “Grandma’s Bread’ that is often used to explain the mystery of the Real Presence of Christ to children. I think the story appeals to adults as well.
The movie is about the loving relationship between Grandma and her grandson Mario. Every Easter Grandma would bake her special bread and Mario would help her – he’d even go with her to the supermarket to select and buy the ingredients – and Mario promises that he will continue to make Grandma’s bread even when he grows up. And Grandma promises to bake her special bread for him for his big day that is coming up in a month’s time – his First Holy Communion.
Unfortunately Grandma is taken ill before that happens and sadly she dies. As the day of Mario’s First Communion gets closer he becomes very quiet missing his Grandma and sad because she won’t be there to make her special bread for him.
When he comes home from school one day and sees Grandma’s cooking things packed in a bag to be given away he bursts into tears.
Mario’s mom realises that Grandma’s bread is important to him and she finds a bread recipe in her own cookbook but she’s pretty sure it won’t be nearly as good as Grandma’s. And Mario’s dad agrees – besides that he thinks that all the fuss being made about ‘tradition’ is nonsense.
Well as Mario’s mom starts working on her bread Mario comes into the kitchen with the bag that has all Grandma’s cooking stuff in it and together, Mario and his folks, they go through Grandma’s things and they find the recipe for her bread written in Italian. Mario’s dad, who has a complete change of heart, translates the recipe into English for his mom and they share the joy of making Grandma’s bread together. Grandma comes alive in her bread.
The movie finishes with the family at Mario’s First Communion breakfast happily enjoying Grandma’s bread.
Unlike the movie, where the memory of Grandma became alive in her bread, the bread and wine in the Mass becomes the person of Jesus – the real Jesus, here with us in the Eucharist. God comes to be with us. This is awesome!! And yet how easy it is for us to lose our wonder of this miracle that takes place every time Mass is celebrated.
We could think about how we’ve prepared to be with Jesus at this Mass. Has it just become part of your weekly routine or do we really look forward to being with Jesus in the Mass? What do you think about when you are coming up in the line to receive Jesus in Holy Communion? And how much time do you spend talking to him in the minutes after Communion? Often we get distracted in those minutes and we end up thinking about other people and other things.
The Eucharist is the heart and soul of our faith. In the Eucharist, Jesus takes our gift – our lives, our offerings of bread and wine – and changes them into the Body and Blood of Christ.
We are also changed. We become the living Body of Jesus. When we receive the Eucharist we say Amen to what we receive and also Amen to who we are – the Body of Christ.
In each of us Jesus lives again.
In the Eucharist, we touch God and God touches us.
Cherish this time with Jesus. It will change your life.