The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
June 23, 2019 – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Last summer our family from near and far gathered at our home in Montana for my birthday. We were celebrating a major mile-marker, the one somewhere between sixty-five and eighty-one. You can guess which one. The central celebratory event was quite naturally a meal to which were invited family and a few friends. The actual meal was preceded by relaxing beverages and it culminated with a huge cake covered with flaming candles and the usual song. It would be hard to imagine such a gathering without food and drink. And mostly, of course, family.
Today’s gospel recounts one of the many meals Jesus celebrated with his close friends and anyone who had interest in him – or he in them. This one was perhaps the largest, a cast of thousands. There are eleven communal meals described in Luke’s gospel. His opponents (and he certainly had some) criticized him because he ate with known outsiders and sinners (according to their judgment). Even they knew the power of sharing food with others.
Some of these shared meals happened before his death and resurrection and some later. What’s worthy of mention is that Jesus never ate alone in Luke’s gospels – or in any of the other gospels. Shared meals were obviously important not only because life required food, but also because of their symbolic meaning. Sharing food symbolized sharing life. Nourishment came from the food and drink consumed, but even more importantly from eating and drinking together. And nourishment especially came from the sharing of lives that was part of the gathering
This Sunday Catholics around the world celebrate the feast of the Body of Christ, formerly called Corpus Christi Sunday. In some countries the Eucharist is publicly carried in procession through the streets amid great festivity. Reverence for the Eucharist is at the center of Catholic life. In a real sense, the active presence of Jesus in the Christian community means that the presence of Christ continues in the life of the church today.
But there might be a problem. Because the Eucharist is so common in Catholic circles, people can grow used to it and relate to it without much thought. Things we do over and over again can slip into becoming routine, automatic, habitual. Like people we live with and see every day, we can take them for granted and hardly notice their presence or absence. Whenever Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist, I imagine that he is quite conscious of each of us. He is aware of our presence, our thoughts at that moment, the love in our hearts. Are we equally aware of him and the gift that he is to each of us?
©David M. Thomas, PhD