The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – June 2

bread-fish-mosaic2To view the readings for Lectionary 169, click here.

Central Idea: Christ is the eternal high priest who offers us what he offered to the Father, himself.

Gn 14:18-20

  • When Abraham met Melchizedek, God’s Chosen People consisted of only one member, Abraham himself. At the time of Moses and the giving of the Law, when those descendants of Abraham had grown into a nation, all the men were to become priests for the rest of humanity. But because of their sin of idolatry, God took this universal priesthood from them. Instead God gave his People a priesthood for just themselves, the men of the tribe of Levi, whose ministry was to offer sacrifices for Israel.
  • Yet here at the very beginning, Abraham meets this mysterious Melchizedek, king of Salem (which means peace). who is also a high priest. Moreover, he is not a pagan priest but a priest of the true God. He makes an offering of bread and wine. He acted as a mediator between God and Abraham, delivering God’s blessing to Abraham and Abraham’s blessing back to God.

Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4

  • Christ interpreted this as a Messianic psalm about himself. God the Father said to Christ—David’s lord—that he will be a prince and will sit at the right hand of God, having conquered all his enemies. Moreover, he will be an eternal priest, like Melchizedek, that priest-king who made an offering of bread and wine on behalf of God’s people, bringing God’s blessing down to them and offering back up their thanks.
  • Abraham, the first of the Chosen People, had won a military victory over his enemies and collected the spoils of war. He gave ten percent of it to this priest of the most high God in thanksgiving.
  • Christ, the first of the new Chosen People, won the victory over his enemies, sin and death. He was both priest and victim, offering all of the spoils he won to God the most high. He now sits at the right hand of God the Father as king and priest, interceding for his people.
  • Christ’s offering was his own body and blood, which he first offered sacramentally in the form of bread and wine at the Last Supper, transforming them into his body and blood in the Eucharist.

1 Cor 11:23-26

  • Only about twenty years after the Last Supper, even before the Gospels were written down, St. Paul repeats to the Corinthians the Apostolic tradition about the Eucharist.
  • The Apostles and the men they had appointed to assist and succeed them obeyed Christ’s orders to “Do this in memory of me.”
  • At the Last Supper, Christ offered himself to the Father in an unbloody manner, transforming the bread and wine into his body and blood. The Church has always understood Our Lord’s words literally. “This is my body” means the bread is now his body, even though it still looks and tastes like bread. “This is my blood” means the wine is now his blood, even though it still looks and tastes like wine.
  • He can do this because he is God.
  • This was the same offering Our Lord made in a bloody manner in his Passion. This is the same offering every priest makes acting in the person of Christ at every Mass.
  • This offering is the New Covenant, the solemn agreement between God and his people. The New Covenant is our redemption from sin and death and our sanctification as children of God.
  • St. Paul says, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
  • He means that when an Apostle or a man who is given the office of bishop or priest does what Christ commanded with bread and wine, saying those words, and then when we consume the body and blood of Christ, we are proclaiming the Gospel. The essence of the Gospel is Christ the Lord himself. Christ is God Incarnate who lived, taught, worked miracles, underwent his Passion and Death on the Cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, intercedes for us, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Lk 9:11b-17

  • At Mass, we are just like this crowd. We come to Christ’s Church to be taught about the kingdom of God, and to be spiritually healed through the Sacrament of Penance, and then to be fed with the miraculous bread of the Eucharist. The priest himself brings very little: some bread and wine and the desire to do what his Master did at the Last Supper. But the result is something superabundant, for all are fed and satisfied.

Doctrine: The Eucharist

  • The Eucharist is Christ himself, and Christ is the Bridegroom of his Spouse, the Church.
  • Through the Mass, in which the Eucharist is “confected”, time and space are mysteriously “opened” and the Last Supper and the Passion of Christ become present.
  • Through the Eucharist, Christ becomes physically present in the Church, keeping his promise that he would always be with us. And because the Eucharist is preserved in the Tabernacle, we can be with him anytime we want.
  • In the Eucharist, we eat the body and drink the blood of Christ in Holy Communion, and obtain everlasting life, provided we receive him worthily.
  • To receive the Eucharist worthily, one must be a baptized Catholic in a state of grace, understand what one is about to receive, and have kept the Eucharistic fast.
  • Some of the effects of a worthy reception of the Eucharist are intimate communion with Christ, deeper union with the Body of Christ, forgiveness of venial sins, and an increase in graces and virtues in the soul.
  • The Church reserves Consecrated Hosts in the Tabernacle so that the Eucharist can be brought to the sick and the faithful can worship the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.[1]

Practical Application: Eucharistic devotion

  • Eucharistic devotion is our thanksgiving, reparation, adoration, and petition to Christ present with us in the Blessed Sacrament.
  • We can spend a few minutes after receiving the Eucharist in silent thanksgiving.
  • We can visit Our Lord reserved in the Tabernacle. There we can silently speak with him about anything we please.
  • We can participate in Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • We can join in a Eucharistic procession. It is to be hoped that every parish holds one on this solemnity.
  • We can adore him remotely, knowing where the nearest Tabernacle is and mentally “going there”. If you hear a Catholic church bell ringing, recall that it is reminding us that Christ is there.
  • We can make spiritual communions expressing our desire to be with him and to receive him using a prayer, such as,
    • “I wish my Lord to receive you, with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.”
  • While Catholics honor Mary (with hyperdulia) and the saints (with dulia), we do not worship them. We do adore or worship Christ in the Eucharist (with latria) because the Eucharist is the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
  • The Catechism sums up Eucharistic devotion in the words of Pope Bl. John Paul II: “Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.” (CCC 1380)

[1] The doctrinal and practical material in this post is adapted from the not-yet-published Didache Parish Series, Book 5: The Sacraments, Chapters 5 & 6.

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