Father Donald Senior, CP

June 14: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Bread for the world

Dt 8:2-3, 14-16; Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20; 1 Cor 10:16-17; Jn 6:51-58

Some of the most poignant scenes in this season of the virus are lines of cars with people waiting to have a box of food put in their trunks by volunteers. Ordinary people out of work and threatened by not enough food for them and their families. 

Yet these sad scenes are no match for the absolute desperation experienced by people literally starving in Sudan and by refugees in other war-torn parts of the world. For millions of people in our world, each day is an urgent quest for enough food to survive for another day. 

Desolate scenes in the news of people hungry and near starvation jolt us into the realization of what food means to us as human beings. Few desires are more powerful and more urgent that this.

Because the Bible is not esoteric literature but is rooted in authentic human experience, there are abundant references to food and meals. The first reading today from Deuteronomy recalls the story of the manna, which is the miraculous food God provides for the Israelites during their desert journey from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. The Lord, the biblical author notes, brought forth water from the rock and fed the people with manna so they would not starve in the desert. 

We know we are dealing with human beings when we later learn that the Israelites began to tire of manna and longed for the leeks and onions of Egypt. They would willingly trade the bread of freedom for a good, tasty meal. The response Psalm 147 praises God for filling Israel “with the best of wheat.” This is a thanksgiving for bringing peace to the land and enabling the people to eat of its produce. 

The same is true of the Gospels. Jesus feeds great crowds with bread and fish. When his disciples want to send the crowds to search out food on their own, Jesus tells them, “You feed them!” 

There are touching moments too. When Jesus raises the little daughter of Jairus from her death-like sleep, he tells the stunned parents to give her something to eat.

In Matthew’s famous parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus, at the last judgment, praises the righteous because “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”

While food is basic and essential, we are also aware that caring for human beings demands more than simply the right number of calories. “Not by bread alone does one live,” Moses tells the people. These are the same words that Jesus will repeat in rebuffing Satan when he attempted to subvert Jesus’ mission with an abundant supply of bread: “Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Human beings hunger for respect and dignity and love itself. Take these realities away and life becomes desperate and meaningless.

The readings for this Sunday’s solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body of and Blood of Christ, are filled with references to the food that nourishes both body and spirit. Such meals were already part of the Jewish tradition practiced by Jesus and his contemporaries. 

God’s liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt was remembered annually through a festive meal, recalling the meal of preparation on the eve of their flight from slavery. Jesus celebrated that Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he died. 

There was plenty of food, including bread and wine. But Jesus had long nourished his disciples with more than physical food — his words of wisdom, his enduring and patient love for them, his ultimate sacrifice for them that would occur the day after that final meal.

This is what we celebrate at Corpus Christi. It is a thanksgiving for the gift of nourishment at all levels. For those of us who have enough to eat, it is a thanksgiving for the blessing of not forgetting that others go hungry here and around the world and we must work to feed them.

For all of us, it is a thanksgiving for the blessing of the spiritual sustenance that comes to us in the Eucharist — the very gift of Jesus’ real presence with us — protecting us, nourishing our spirits, pledging us unending love and dignity as sons and daughters of God. 


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