"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
June 26: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
It’s one of two major feasts that focus on the Eucharist, the other being Holy Thursday. Corpus Christi differs from Holy Thursday in that the latter commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and is associated with Christ’s passion. Corpus Christi follows Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost and is thus associated with the risen and ascended Lord who leads his Church to heaven.
The first reading recalls the Exodus and how God provided manna from heaven and water from the rock to sustain the Israelites in the desert as he led them to the Promised Land. These two miracles represent the two great Christian sacraments: baptism and Eucharist.
The second reading is from Paul’s first letter to Corinth. The Church was troubled by conflict and disorder. Even the Lord’s Supper had become a source of division (1 Cor 11:18-21). St. Paul explains that the Eucharist is an actual participation in Christ: a participation that’s meant to unite the Church, not divide it.
If the first reading stressed the “vertical” or transcendent dimension of the sacraments, the second reading brings out the “horizontal” or corporate dimension in which the Eucharist binds us together as one body.
In this week’s Gospel from the bread of life discourse, Jesus draws a connection between his own flesh and blood, and the manna his ancestors ate. The latter provided only temporary sustenance, while Jesus’ “flesh” is the “living bread of heaven” by which one can live forever.
Those who heard Jesus were extremely disturbed by his use of the word “flesh.” But “flesh” doesn’t refer to the raw meat of a corpse. It signifies the full-blooded, incarnate reality of a living person. The Eucharist is not a symbol; it is an actual participation in Christ who is alive.
Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Pope Benedict XVI:
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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