6/2/13, Be What You Receive

Gen. 14:18-20; 1Cor. 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17

Today we complete the three Sunday series (Pentecost, Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi) that bridges Christian community from the celebration of Easter season back into the journey of "ordinary time."  While the scripture readings for seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas develop particular doctrinal themes, the readings during the liturgies of Ordinary Time help to instruct  us on how to live out our faith daily as followers of Christ.

The Institution of the Eucharist is formally celebrated on Holy Thursday, because at the Last Supper Christ is said to have presented the Bread and Wine as symbols of his body and blood being the food that sustains our faith.  But because the Lord's Supper gets a little lost in the drama of Holy Week, the Feast of Corpus Christi was inserted as an observance which would focus solely on the Eucharist.

Corpus Christi, which in Latin means "Body of Christ," originated in the 13th century through the mystical envisioning of a nun named Juliana of Liege.  The readings from the Old Testament, from the Epistles and from the New Testament have all been chosen to teach something about the significance of the Body of Christ for our lives of faith.

In the reading from Genesis, the high priest Melchizidek is a foreshadowing of Christ when he presents wine and bread to Abram as a gesture of fellowship and a blessing of peace.  Paul's letter to the Corinthians says that Jesus instructed him to pass on these particular words of blessing when the bread and wine are shared in remembrance of Christ.  Finally, in the Gospel of Luke the story is told of a crowd of people gathered around Jesus being fed in abundance.

As this Gospel passage is read, close your eyes and imagine your place in this story:

When the crowds learned (where Jesus was) they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.  Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place."  But he said to them, "You give them something to eat."  They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people."  There were about five thousand gathered.  And he said to his disciples, "Have them sid down in groups of about fifty each."  And they did so.  And taking the five loaves and two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them.  Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.  And they all ate and were satisfied.  And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Who are we in this story?

1.  We are the crowd:  longing for finding deeper meaning in our lives.  We find ourselves welcomed, taught, healed, loved by Jesus who is the revelation of the face of God.  We are invited to enter into fellowship with him and to follow him on the way.

2.  We are the disciples:  challenged to feed the needy ourselves even though the resources for such a huge task seems impossible.  It's easier to dismiss them with "God bless you." and perhaps pass off responsibility to others.

3.  We are the Christ:  But how is it that we are to feed a multitude?  Jesus' solution is radically simple.  He asks them to simply gather what they have.  He asks the disciples to seat people in communities of fifty people.  He raises his eyes to heaven, recites the blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples for distribution.  It is a moment of communion:  the crowd, says the Gospel writer, all were satisfied.

Lumen Christi:  We gather often around the Lord's table.  We are the crowd longing to be nourished by words of truth and hope and instruction about living in faith.  But we are also the disciples who are given the task of feeding a world of people hungry not only for food, but for love and for encouragement and for teaching in the ways of Spirit.  Finally, we are the Body of Christ itself:  We are the living living presence of God in the world.  We are fed with each other's lives as we come together to share the spiritual gifts resident within each of us.  This means that we must be willing, like the symbolic bread that we take, to be bread for the world ourselves:  to be blessed, to be broken, and to be given away.

Do you really understand that you are the Body of Christ, that it is your own identity you say "Yes" to when you say "Amen" upon receiving the bread and wine?

Now you may think that heresy is being taught right here from the pulpit of Lumen Christi.  You may wonder about those new words that are being used in our table prayers.  But I want to point out that this truth has been taught from the early Christian community on.  I'm going to quote to you from the writings of St. Augustine, one of the formative theologians of Christian doctrine.  He quotes from Scripture and his words are woven into our catechism.  In his Sermon 272 we read:

There (in heaven) Jesus dwells even now....So how can bread be his body?  And what about the cup?  How can it be his blood?"  My friends, these realities are called sacraments because in them one thing is seen, while another is grasped.  What is seen is a mere physical likeness; what is grasped bears spiritual fruit.  So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful:  "You are the body of Christ, member for member."  [1Cor:12-27]  If you, therefore, are Christ's body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord's table!  It is your own mystery that our are receiving!  You are saying "Amen" to what you are:  your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith.  When you hear "The body of Christ", you reply "Amen."  Be a member of Christ's body, then, so that your "Amen" may ring true!  But what role does the bread play? ...listen, to what Paul says about this sacrament:  "The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body."  [1Cor:10-17], ..."One bread," he says.  What is this one bread?  Is it not the "one body," formed from many?  Remember:  bread doesn't come from a single grain, but from many.  When you received exorcism, you were "ground."  When you were baptized, you were "leavened."  When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were "baked."  Be what you see; receive what you are.  This is what Paul is saying about the bread.  So too, what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation.  In the visible object of bread, many grains are gathered into one just as the faithful (so Scripture says) from "a single heart and mind in God" [Acts:4,32].  And thus it is with the wine.  Remember, friends, how wine is made.  Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew.  This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated.

Eucharist is an act of Thanksgiving.  Questions to ponder:  Do I remind myself daily that I am Bread?  Do I enact, day-to-day, that which I have given my "yes" to being?  In any given moment of time, am I willing to be blessed, broken and given away?  Do I live as Eucharist in my person, the Body of Christ in this world?

When we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi at the end of Easter, it should take us into Ordinary Time to be the resurrected, living Body of Christ in the World.  Let's go do it...  Let's receive what we are and be what we receive.

By Sandi DeMaster