THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI) YEAR C JUNE 23, 2019 (R. 1: Genesis 14: 18- 20; Psalm 110: 1, 2, 3, 4; R. 2: 1Corinthians 11: 23- 26; Gospel: Luke 9: 11b- 17)
REV FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
HE GAVE EVERYTHING
A man and his wife got into a quarrel. They were not ready to reconcile; eventually, they separated, and the man went to live in a different city. They had only one child (a son) who did all within his power to bring his parents together, but they would not forgive each other. On one of his travels between his mom and his dad, the boy got in a car accident, and he died. Every year, on the day of his death anniversary, his parents would go at different times of the day to pray by his grave. On the fifth anniversary of his death, the father was praying silently at the cemetery. While standing by the grave, he heard a sound behind him. When he turned, he saw his ex-wife. The initial impulse of both of them was to turn away. But they had a common interest in the grave, so instead of turning away, they exchanged eye contact for the first time in years, tears came flowing from both of them, they held each other’s hands over the grave of their son, they prayed and were reconciled. Their son did all he could to bring about reconciliation while he was alive without success; eventually, they were reconciled by his death.
Last Sunday, we celebrated the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. On that day, Jesus promised his Apostles in the Gospel passage that he had more things to tell them, which would be revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. What was the secret? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 221) says that God’s innermost secret is that “God…is an eternal exchange of love” between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that it is the desire of God that we share in this beautiful relationship. Unfortunately, human beings continue to work against this great plan of God for us.
We gather today to celebrate the fact that Christ does not give up on us in spite of our stubbornness. Today has been specially set aside for us to celebrate the greatest treasure that God has given to the Church to bring us together with one another and with God. It is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, present under the appearances of bread and wine. Today is the solemn commemoration of the institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament. At this point, one who is familiar with the liturgical calendar might ask, “Is today Holy Thursday?” Well, Holy Thursday marks the anniversary of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, but the agony in the garden with the passion of the Lord that follows suppresses the rejoicing that is proper to the occasion. As such, today’s celebration highlights the joyful aspect of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, which we missed on Holy Thursday.
The three readings for today, help to bring out the joy in today’s celebration. I don’t know about you, but I like food a lot. One thing I noticed about the readings is that they all have something to do with food. In the first reading, it was Melchizedek and Abram around bread and wine, in the second reading, it was Paul reminding the Christians in Corinth of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, while the Gospel ends with Jesus feeding the crowd. Some scholars have divided the Public Ministry of Jesus into three stages. The first is His Galilean Ministry, which ended with Jesus feeding 5,000 Jews (Mark 6: 44). The second is His Ministry to the Decapolis (Ten Cities), which ended with Jesus feeding 4,000 Gentiles (Mark 8: 8); and the third is His Jerusalem Ministry, which ended with Jesus feeding his Apostles with his body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine at the Last Supper. Each of these feedings is a foretaste of the eternal banquet in heaven (Luke 22: 16). Heaven will be joyful, there will be plenty, and there will be no lack. That is why a sad Christian is a contradiction.
The whole of the earthly mission of Christ was for reconciling everything in his person and bringing about peace through the shedding of his blood. When the day was coming to a close in today’s Gospel passage, his apostles came to him with the suggestion to “Dismiss the crowd,” but that was contrary to the mission of Christ who came to gather and not to scatter. He, therefore, asked the crowd to remain and challenged the apostles to feed them.
In the second reading, Paul takes the Christians in Corinth back to the institution of the Eucharist. He had to do this because, in the Corinthian community, the Christians always had a shared meal (potluck) before the Eucharist. They realized the need to share the material bread to be able to share the living bread worthily. Unfortunately, instead of sharing with everybody what each brought from home for the meal, the community broke into groups: the rich gathered together and shared their delicious meals while the poor who had close to nothing gathered separately. It was a life of contradiction. How could they celebrate something that meant unity (eating of the same bread/body and drinking from the same cup) and still promote division and disunity?
Paul then reminded them of how the Eucharist came about. Someone had to give all that he had to bring about the Eucharist, to bring about our union with one another and with God. Though he was God, he humbled himself and became a human being like us. He kept giving all that he had and finally gave his life on the Cross to provide us with the Eucharist. If Jesus Christ went that far for us, why can’t the rich give up their pride and share with the poor? Why can’t parents swallow their pride and reconcile with each other for the good of their children? Why can’t siblings after a quarrel swallow their pride and forgive each other? Why can’t friends sacrifice being right and reconcile after a fight for the sake of their friendship? Why can’t we give up some of our comforts to let others have less discomfort? Christ did it that we might follow in his steps (cf. 1 Peter 2:21)
When it comes to relationships, I have failed in many ways, probably, you have too. Maybe we need to apologize to someone; perhaps we need to accept apology even when not perfectly tendered. Each new day gives us an opportunity for growth. Our failures in relationships must not keep us away from the Holy Eucharist. Remember, the Holy Eucharist is not a prize but a gift; not a reward for our good deeds but medicine to heal us of our shortcomings. The Holy Eucharist is a broken body for broken people who are ready to be mended to share in the life of God. May this Body and Blood of Jesus Christ cleanse us from our sins and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.