Opening reflection (taken from Magnificat magazine, www.magnificat.com): Blessed John Paul II reminded us that in commemorating the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the Church “does not only celebrate the Eucharist but solemnly bears it in procession, publicly proclaiming that the sacrifice of Christ is the salvation of the whole world.” We rejoice in this post-Easter expression of our Eucharistic affection in order to deepen our attachment to the unique and unending Event that transforms our lives. As the Sequence for Corpus Christ begs: “Jesu, of Your love befriend us,/You refresh us, You defend us,/Your eternal goodness send us/In the land of life to see.”
(This weekend’s Scripture readings are available in the New American Bible translation at the Vatican’s English website at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM.)
First Reading: Genesis 14:18-20 (Revised Standard Version)
A reading from the book of Genesis.
In those days Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed Abram and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: Since this is the weekend that the Catholic Church focuses on the Eucharist, it takes little time to spot the immediate connection between the feast and this first reading. But the Church has always found deep meaning in the entire encounter reported here; in fact, the Scriptures offer two extended meditations – Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5-7 – on this offering and the significance of the mysterious priest who offered it.
This event took place relatively early in the Canaanite sojourn of Abram (not yet renamed Abraham). He and his nephew Lot had parted ways, with Lot going to live in the area of the soon-to-be-doomed Sodom and Gomorrah. But when the kings of those two cities ended up on the losing side of a battle between two coalitions of cities, Lot was captured and taken prisoner by the winners. Abram and a tiny force of 318 men pursued the victorious armies, defeated them and freed his nephew. It was in honor of this victory that Melchizedek comes out from Salem – a poetic name for Jerusalem – and offered bread and wine to “God Most High.”
We know nothing historically about Melchizedek other than what we read here. But Israel and then the Church has seen him as “a priest forever.” Some have speculated that he might have been Shem, the son of Noah, who lived an additional 500 years after the Flood. If so, that means he had firsthand knowledge of God’s mighty works and personal care in preserving his family and the animals through the deluge that had flooded at least all of Mesopotamia (which, to Noah’s family, would have been the entire world). His priesthood would not have been of the temporary type to which God later appointed Aaron and his descendants. Its source was far more profound.
In this passage, we have a foreshadowing not only of the Eucharist itself but of a specific point in the Mass. Melchizedek brings out bread and wine; Abram gives him a tithe of the booty that he and his forces had recovered from the invading kings. In the Offertory, the bridge between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we should call Melchizedek and Abram to mind.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
A reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.
Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which 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.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: This particular Scripture reading, which gives Paul’s rendering of the Words of Institution, also serves as the Epistle reading every Holy Thursday. (For the author’s usedview.com meditations on that feast day, click on the following link: http://usedview.com/article/meditations-on-scriptures-holy-thursday-april-21-2011.)
Gospel: Luke 9:11b-17
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke. Glory to You, O Lord.
Jesus spoke to the crowds 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 villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely 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.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditation: All four Gospels tell the story of the feeding of the five thousand (which could have been twice that many people, depending on how many women and children were present). Luke’s account differs little from the firsthand eyewitness accounts of Matthew and John and the viewpoint of Peter reflected in Mark’s Gospel. Readers of this series are referred to the author’s sequence of usedview.com meditations from the summer of 2012 (beginning here: http://usedview.com/article/meditations-on-scriptures-16th-sunday-ordinary-time-year-b-7-21-22-12) for extended thoughts on this great miracle and Christ’s subsequent teachings on the Eucharist in John’s Gospel.
Close with individual prayer, followed by Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be