18 June 2017: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

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

Eucharist: God’s care, community meal, food of eternal life

White_gold_banner_sm On the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Lectionary readings invite us to think about the Eucharist, foreshadowed in the Hebrew scripture as manna and fulfilled in Christian scripture as the bread of life.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses recalls God’s great acts, especially God feeding the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. God’s gift of manna expresses God’s care for the chosen people. The gospel compares God’s gift of manna, which sustains human life, with the Father’s gift of Jesus-as-bread, who gives eternal life.

In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul recalls the blessing cup and broken bread as both a fellowship meal and remembrance meal. However, he emphasizes the community/communion aspect when he stresses one loaf/one body in which all participate and become one.

In John’s gospel, Jesus tells his synagogue listeners that manna saved their ancestors from starvation in the wilderness, but still the Israelites died. For those who follow Jesus, the bread-of-life that Jesus’ offers is both physical food (bread/wine) as well as spiritual food (himself/abiding).

Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus is God’s gift that reveals God’s care for disciples. Unlike the manna, Jesus gives himself as communion–union with Jesus and the Father–so disciples will abide with the Father and Son forever. Jesus, the bread-coming-down-from-heaven, gives his disciples a share in eternal life though his living, dying, and resurrection. Although Jesus returns to the Father, Jesus continues to abide with the believing community in the Eucharistic meal. By remembering Jesus and by imitating his sacrificial love, the disciples remain-in-relationship with Jesus and the Father.

On this feast celebrating the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, the readings reveal the Eucharist as wilderness food, fellowship sign, and life source. In the Eucharistic mystery, we continue to see new meanings of manna, meal, and remaining-in-relationship. In the Eucharistic sacrament, we encounter God as gift, covenant meal, and life. At every Mass, Jesus shares a meal with us, made from the Father’s gifts and our work, which the Spirit returns to us as God’s own self. What is our wilderness? What is our food? What gives us life?

—Terence Sherlock

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