June 2, 2013 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Gn 14:18-20; Ps 110;1 Cor 11:23-26;Lk 9:11b-17
"God's generosity is overwhelming!"
Recently I visited a friend's mother who is receiving hospice care because of cancer. Although she looked frail and weary, her spirit remained positive and cheerful. I visited her many times in the past and always went away nourished both in body and spirit. This time it was no different. Her generosity overwhelmed me. She literally took whatever she had, blessed it, and gave it to me. Her acts of kindness and generous sharing are truly sacramental manifestations of God's love and generosity. Her actions exemplify the message of today's Scripture readings and the significance of today's celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
The first reading tells the story of Abraham's encounter with the mysterious Old Testament figure named Melchizedek, whose name means "my righteous king." According to the context of the story, Abraham was coming from an expedition to rescue Lot, his nephew, from captivity. Melchizedek, who is both the king and priest of Salem or Jerusalem, met Abraham on his return. He offered him bread and wine, and blessed him with these words: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth." Melchizedek's respect and sensitivity greatly surprised Abraham. Abraham therefore responded with a gesture of mutuality by offering a generous tithe, a tenth of his looted treasures. The story is a fine example of intercultural exchange, for the local king and priest Melchizedek and the foreigner Abraham demonstrated mutual respect for one another and shared what they had with each other. Both were enriched.
The second reading from Paul's First Corinthians connects nicely with the first reading and today's solemn feast. It is Paul's account of the institution of the Lord's Supper, which is very similar to the one found in the Synoptic Gospels, especially the Lucan account. It is an anamnesis or "ritual remembering" of the church, in which Paul now hands on what he had received. Paul's account contains four strong Eucharistic verbs: take, bless, break, and give. Paul charged the church to repeat Jesus' words and actions. When we do this, we proclaim and reenact his salvific death and furthermore anticipate the eschatological banquet of fulfillment.
The Gospel reading recounts the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. This story is found in all four Gospels, which rarely occurs and therefore shows the importance of this event. Jesus' actions and words are brief but profoundly significant. He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it as food. The Eucharistic overtones are evident. Luke tells us that there were five thousand men, not counting women and children, who ate and were satisfied. There were even plenty of leftovers. Jesus' act of love and generosity fulfills Mary's words in the Magnificat, "He has filled the hungry with good things" (Lk 1:53). It also accomplishes Jesus' own Beatitude, "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled" (Lk 6:21).
This Sunday's Scripture readings are appropriately chosen for the solemnity of the body and blood of Christ. Each reading highlights the theme of God's love and generosity manifested through the sharing of food with those in need. We are encouraged to do likewise as Jesus himself has directed, "Give them some food yourselves!" By taking what we have and offering it to others in the spirit of God's love, we not only reenact the Eucharist but actually become what we receive in the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.
vanThanh Nguyen, S.V.D
Associate Professor of New Testament Studies
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