THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of CORPUS CHRISTI – Sunday, 23 June 2019)
Gospel Reading: Luke 9:11-17
First Reading: Genesis 14:18-20; Psalms: Psalm 110:1-4, Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The Scripture Text
When the crowds learned it, they followed Him; and He welcomed them and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish – unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, “make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fist he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces. (Luke 9:11-17 RSV)
Today’s Gospel recounts the story of how Jesus satisfies the hunger of a large multitude with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread. Focusing on the great number of people Jesus fed, we often overlook another significant detail. Before giving the food to the people to eat, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and pronounced a blessing on it (said grace). This blessing was a very important part of every Jewish meal because a pious Jew would not dare eat without first giving thanks to God who gives us all good things.
Although God does not need our thanks, giving Him thanks before we eat is a very appropriate response for all He has given us. Recall how you feel when you give something to someone and that person does not acknowledge your gift. The disappointment is bad enough when the ungrateful recipient is a stranger or someone you do not know very well but it is much more acute when the person is someone you love. In such a case, because the gift is an expression of your love, it is easy to feel it is your love, not just the gift, that the person does not appreciate.
With this in mind, we can readily understand how God feels when we fail to give thanks to Him for all the gifts He has so tenderly bestowed on us. Because of His great love for us, the pain and the disappointment God feels when we are ungrateful is acute. Our callousness can only communicate to Him how little we value His many expressions of love.
Today, on the Feast of Corpus Christi (which is Latin for “Body of Christ”), we celebrate and give thanks to God for the gift of the body and blood of His Son. Since the days of the early Church, Christians have understood the story in today’s Gospel to be symbolic of the celebration of the Eucharist. Scripture scholars believe this is the main reson why it is the only story we find in all four of the Gospels.
The greatest gift God could have given us is the gift of His Son, Jesus. Because of His immense love for us, He continues to give us this gift in the form of bread and wine. We take time today to thank God in a special way for this great gift, the gifts of His love.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 338-339.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You gave Your Church an admirable sacrament as the abiding memorial of Your passion. Teach us so to worship the sacred mystery of your Body and Blood, that its redeeming power may sanctify us always.
Jakarta, 21 June 2019
A Christian Pilgrim