Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, referred to as the feast of Corpus Christi. It is also Father’s Day, and it is also June 19th. Three things coming together in one day.
But as we listen to the scripture, I think what we see in the second reading from today is how Paul shares with the people, what has been handed down, what has been passed on from him to others to the community of faith. And it is the recollection of what took place. The Last Supper. Jesus, as part of that Passover meal that he was celebrating with his disciples.
Now he took the bread, blessed it and gave it.
“This is my body” and how he took the wine and gave it and said, “This is my blood.”
In a sense, beginning the tradition of the Eucharist right then and there.
And you might say, well, why? Why was he doing that? What was the implications with his action at that point?
Well, I think if you look at it, He was certainly giving to the disciples the nourishment that would strengthen them for the events that they would be experiencing in the next 24, 48 hours, and he knew that when they saw him seized, when they saw him taken, when they saw him on the cross, they would be terrified. And they would be almost shaking to their boots because they would not understand what was taking place. They had placed their lives in his hands. They had left everything behind to be one with him to follow with him.
And now it appeared that it was all ending.
And ending in a very dramatic and a very tragic way.
And they feared for their own safety and their own well-being. That’s why they went to hide in the upper room.
But he gave them this gift. A gift that would sustain them.
And we get some insight into that gift as we hear in the Gospels.
The recollection of this event of the feeding of the multitudes.
It’s the only story that is contained in all four Gospels.
And it’s contained in all four gospels because it is essential.
When you listen to the story, what you understand is that, again, this crowd has followed Jesus.
They have followed him. And the reference is clearly made.
They have followed him to a deserted place.
A place where there are no resources. And it’s there that the disciples come to him and say, send them away, let them go to the farms in the villages that they can get what they need because this is a deserted place.
We cannot survive in this environment.
So he takes the few fish that they have and the few loaves of bread.
And he blesses them. And he breaks them.
And he says the disciples now give it out to them.
But he doesn’t just say haphazardly give it out to them. He says, have them sit in groups of 50.
If you are familiar with the writings of the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah is very clear that on God’s Holy Mountain.
There will be a feast. And the people will sit In groups of 50 and 100 for this messianic meal. The meal of heaven. Out, Luke is telling us. This is what happened in that deserted place. But it’s also what happened at the Last Supper. What Jesus knew, like the people who were there with him that, we would have to continue our journey, just this.
Paul tells us in that second reading we would have to consider our journey and that our journey might at times because of the circumstances of life make us feel. Very alone. Very frightened, very terrified. So Paul says. He gave us this gift. The gift of himself. By which he would strengthen us for the journey.
Because the heart of the gift, the heart of the Eucharist, is that it is engaging us, engaging us. In the divine activity. The activity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That’s why when we talk about the Eucharist, we don’t talk about something that’s here, in this sense, a very visible and obvious to us bread and wine, but we talk about the mystery of the Eucharist, for the mystery of the Eucharist is that we are drawn through this gift. Into the very dynamic activity of God.
The Son offering himself to the Father by the power of the Spirit, that the Father might be honored and glorified;. The Father, by the power of the Spirit giving to the Son the courage to live by the will of the Father despite the tragedies and circumstances of life that in a sense, he would have the healing ability. By his ongoing sacrifice of self, he would have the healing ability. It cures the brokenness that exists in the world by drawing all into himself, in order it, through the Spirit, He might bring us to oneness with the Father.
The gift of the Eucharist is the most precious gift that the Lord has given us. The Eucharist is for us the center of our life. For it is that to which we are ever drawn. And that from which we are ever sent. In the sense that the Eucharist not only nourishes, but the Eucharist affirms. And most importantly, the Eucharist teaches us. It teaches us of the unconditional love of God which is continually being made present to us in order that experiencing that love. Drawn into the life of Christ, with the gift of the Spirit so we may become the agents of the Father.
But we may continue that work. That work of reconciliation, that work of affirming that work, of nourishing, that work, of lifting up. Think of it in the context of a father. On Father’s Day. How many of us, despite the different experiences we’ve had at different times when you break it all apart? Others teach. They teach most especially the good way of living.
When I was a kid growing up., my father taught many, many gifts. One of the things that he taught, because of his own life experience, he taught the need to reach out, that we need to care. And he taught the need to see the face of God and every other human being. A powerful experience that has stayed with me all my life.
And it was affirmed for me when I was preparing to enter the seminary. Entering the seminary, you go through all kinds of procedures. But one of the procedures is you must gather all your documents. And I had to go to Manhattan to the Lower East Side to gather the document for my parents’ marriage. And it was at the church in which they were married over on Elizabeth Street. [Church of Our Lady of Loreto, 309 Elizabeth Street, now the Sheen Center https://www.sheencenter.org/venuesrentals]
But the uniqueness of the church was that for many years it was a refuge, a refuge for Skid Row people.
And they went and got my papers was Holy Thursday, they got my papers in the morning.
It was around 11 or so and the priest who was there, a very kind individual, went on to be a cardinal, actually, very kindly, says to me, while you’re here, we’re going to have Mass in a little while. Why don’t you join us?
And I was kind of hesitant, you know. How can I say no? After all, he’s done this, he’s gotten me all these papers and everything. How can I say no? I went to celebrate the Mass with them.
Unbeknownst that the rest of the congregation who was going to be there, or what were referred to back then, as the bums of the Bowery.
And the Eucharist teaches. For it reaffirmed for me a teaching, that I had gotten from my father: we were all one. We are one at the rail receiving the Eucharist. Yeah, they were differences between us. I lived; the way they lived. But the fact that in Christ, we are one.
How important that is for us to understand the gift of the Eucharist. What brings us together?
The gift of the Eucharist is what gives us freedom.
June 19th. It’s a celebration of freedom. Within the African-American community.
Because it’s the day that two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the black community, the African-American community in Texas finally got the message that they were free.
Well, the Eucharist is giving us that message every day.
We are free. Because we live in crisis. We are one because we live in peace.
And the Eucharist says to us, because you live in Christ, your role in the world is that of nourishing, that of uplifting, that of encouraging. That is celebrating the freedom you have as the children of God.