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June 2, 2010
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
EDITOR'S NOTE: For the June 13, 2010 edition of Breaking Open the Word click here.
June 6: Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
• Genesis 14:18-20
Overview: Traditionally known as Corpus Christi, this Sunday celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Immediately before his ascension into heaven, the Lord promised to be with his Church “until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). In the Eucharist, Christ keeps his promise. In this week’s first reading the mysterious priest-king Melchizedek (“righteous king”) offers bread and wine to “God Most High” in thanksgiving for Abraham’s victory over his enemies. God had led Abraham from Haran (southern Turkey) “to a land that I will show you” (Gn 12:2). Abraham finally arrived in Canaan (Jerusalem to be exact) where God would establish his posterity. Abraham’s attempt to settle there, however, was fiercely resisted by local kings. After defeating them, Abraham ‘built an altar to the Lord’ (Gn 13:18) thus establishing his place in the land and proving that “God Most High” was the one, true God. Melchizedek is a “type” of Christ in part because of his mysterious presence, where he seems to come out of nowhere. He thus prefigures Christ who is without beginning or end, but “is a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4). The second reading describes the basic form of the Eucharist as Paul had received it. It is the earliest example of the rite preserved in the New Testament. The miracle of the loaves and fishes (this week’s Gospel) represents the climax of Jesus’ Galilean ministry before turning to Jerusalem. It is the only miracle common to all four Gospels (apart from the Resurrection!). The four-fold structure of the meal where Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives is clearly Eucharistic. The 12 baskets signify the Church, the new Israel, which abounds with the heavenly bread. The miracle of the loaves looks backward (to the manna in the desert for example) and forward to the second coming of Christ and the eschatological feast that will last forever. The Eucharist not only makes present the reality of Christ’s sacrifice, it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Key verse: “This is my body” (1 Cor 11:24).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “Having passed from this world to the Father, Christ gives us in the Eucharist the pledge of glory with him. Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints” (No. 1419).
Pope Benedict XVI: “At its very heart the Eucharist is the answer to the question of death, for it is the encounter with that love which is stronger than death. Corpus Christi is the response of this central Eucharistic mystery. Once a year it gives demonstrative expression to the triumphal joy in Christ’s victory, as we accompany the Victor on his triumphal procession through the streets” (“Feast of Faith”).
Life application: Together with Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi is a fitting conclusion to the Easter cycle of readings, which not only celebrate Christ’s victory over death, but confirm his undying love and presence with us “until the end of the age.”
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese.