Father Donald Senior, CP

June 19: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 15, 2022

“All ate and were satisfied”

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

This beautiful feast of “Corpus Christi” (“Body of Christ”) reminds us how central the Eucharist is to our Catholic faith and practice. Celebration of the Eucharist is the magnet that draws Catholics to come together. The consecrated hosts reverenced in the tabernacle are a focus of prayer and worship in every Catholic church.

The readings for this feast draw us to a dimension of the Eucharist that we can never forget. In the second reading selected from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we hear the apostle cite a tradition that goes back into the very life of Jesus, “the Lord Jesus on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”

What is crucial about this reading is its context — the reason Paul reminds the Corinthians of these words of Jesus on the eve of his death. Paul had learned that there was a serious problem with the way these Christians were celebrating the Lord’s supper — not the ritual itself but the spirit of their whole celebration. Like a lot of parishes, they coupled their celebration of the Lord’s supper with a festive meal. But at these meals, the wealthy members of the community were bringing elaborate spreads and choice wines while the poor members had nothing and were acutely embarrassed. As Paul bluntly puts it, “for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”

This situation provoked Paul’s sharp rebuke. This indifference to the plight of the poor members ran directly against the spirit of the Eucharist. What was to be a sign of unity and mutual care for each other, a remembrance of Jesus’ own life given for us, had been turned in a marker of social standing. “Would you show contempt for the church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed?” Paul demands.

The Gospel selection for today makes a similar point about the deep meaning of the Eucharist. This is Luke’s account of Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people. As is so often the case in the Gospel drama, Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd, healing the sick and teaching. As sunset approaches, the apostles advise Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they can go into the surrounding villages and farms to find something to eat.

Jesus has a different idea: “Give them some food yourselves.” The apostles protest that all they have are “five loaves and two fish.” Then Jesus, with gestures that evoke the manner of the Eucharist, “looked up to heaven, blessed the loaves, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. … They all ate and were satisfied” and the leftovers filled twelve baskets.

These powerful readings help us grasp the full meaning of the Eucharist. Yes, as our Catholic faith affirms, the risen Jesus is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist and, therefore, we celebrate the Eucharist and reverence the eucharistic elements as the body and blood of Christ. But the Gospels (the multiplication story is in all four Gospels) and Paul remind us that Christ present in the Eucharist is the Christ who had compassion for the crowds and was determined to feed them, the Christ who gave his life for us that we might have life, the Christ who knew that we were the object of his Father’s love and therefore reached out with compassion for all those in need of healing.

Each of us is “hungry” for abundant life, so we partake of the Eucharist to be fed, just as the crowds were by Jesus. At the same time, the Jesus who nourishes us in the Eucharist compels us to reach out to all those in need, just as he did. The church as the “body of Christ” is to be “bread for the world.”



  • scripture