Father Donald Senior, CP

June 23: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Corpus Christi

Gn 14:18-20; Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11-17

Older generations of Catholics will remember impressive Corpus Christi processions.

As a boy growing up in Philadelphia, I can remember standing along downtown Broad Street as wave after wave of parish groups proudly marched by. My Aunt Betty would call out excitedly, “There’s our parish!” At the conclusion of a long parade would come a string of vested clergy, then the gold canopy with the archbishop holding the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament on display.  

When my family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, we discovered that the Corpus Christi procession took place at Churchill Downs. Where only a few weeks before, Derby colts had pounded around the track, now came a solemn procession of men from Holy Name societies of all the parishes. Once again, we would see the finale with the canopy and the beautiful monstrance held aloft by the archbishop. 

All during the procession, recitation of the rosary boomed out from the loudspeaker system for the sake of the women and children who were confined to the stands. These public manifestations of uniquely Catholic piety were held partly to affirm that Catholics were here to stay, and I suspect in Louisville, to strike a bit of fear in the hearts of the majority Southern Baptist population. 

Beyond a bit of religious chauvinism, though, such devotion to the Eucharist, to the body of Christ, unerringly points to the heart of Catholic faith, then and now. There is a strong reverence for the “body” in biblical tradition — starting with the story of creation itself in Genesis. 

God is the one who fashions the human body from the clay of the earth and breathes life into it. From the Christian perspective proclaimed in John’s Gospel, that same human flesh becomes even more luminous when the eternal Word of God becomes flesh and dwells among us.

There is great attention to the welfare of human bodies in the Gospel portrayals of Jesus’ ministry. He heals bodies and protects them. He liberates them from the threat of evil. As in the Gospel account from Luke that we hear this Sunday, he feeds bodies — thousands of them. 

When the apostles want to dismiss the crowds and leave them on their own to find provisions, Jesus’ response is: “Give them some food yourselves.” To make his point Jesus takes “five loaves and two fish” and turns them into enough abundance to feed “five thousand” (counting only the men), “with twelve baskets of fragments left over.” 

No one could forget that this same body of Jesus would be broken for us and when the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples, his body still bore the wound marks, signs of love.

The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians recalls another feeding story — one so sacred to Christian memory. It is the Last Supper when Jesus declares the bread and wine to be his very own being about to be given out of love for his disciples. 

The context for Paul’s words — not cited in the Lectionary selection — is crucial. During the celebrations of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth, some of the wealthier members of the community brought lavish food to eat while the poor had little or nothing and were embarrassed.

Paul sharply reminds his Christians that this meal and this bread expresses the indiscriminate love of Christ for his people. To make it a situation that accented inequality was an offense against the very meaning of Christ’s body.

Paul, we remember, thought of the Christian community itself as the body of Christ, with many members bound together as one by God’s Spirit. It is a body where the least are treated with dignity because it is love that animates the body of Christ.

Corpus Christi, the body of Christ. So many powerful manifestations: the Word of God made flesh; the body of Christ healing the wounds of the world; the body of Christ manifest in the church itself as it strives to be one; the body of Christ mysteriously present in the sacrament of the Eucharist; the body of Christ broken and given so that no one goes hungry.


  • scripture