archdioceses and dioceses where
the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated
the following readings are used on this Sunday:
of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ:
John Schlegel, S.J.
other parts of the world where Corpus Christi is celebrated
on June 10th, the Daily Reflection and readings for
the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found here:
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Second Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Luke 7:36--8:3 or
This is a celebration with ancient roots. There have been heresies of all
kinds about the humanity and divinity of Jesus. some propose that Jesus
seemed only to be human while others taught that Jesus was not divine at
all, but a holy prophet. The Eucharistic presence of Jesus has had quite
a journey as well. Early in the church’s practice, the Eucharistic celebration
was remembered in homes at the family table. It moved from that more familiar
setting, to its being reserved and hidden and somewhat unavailable the general
human body of believers. There were days set aside for the reception of Christ’s
Eucharistic body, but they were rare and so the body of believers grew to
feel unworthy of Jesus’ holy presence.
We pray in a spirit of receptivity at the liturgy and especially today
as we gather to be reminded who we are as his Body. Jesus came that we might
have “life” and we walk the paths of our lives with Jesus as personal and
communal companion. With hearts attentive and hands extended in praise and
openness, we come together to be blest and distributed as we are sent. As
we renew the ancient story of who he says we are, we renew our identities
as people who are sent.
During part of the Church’s history, there was such a devotion to the presence
of Christ in the Eucharist that believers would hurry from one church to
another just to catch a glimpse of the consecrated bread as the priest held
it high during the “Elevation”. There was a sense of their being blest just
by seeing. In the year 1254 this feast of the Body of Christ was established
and the Eucharistic Presence would be carried in procession through the streets
as a blessing for the faithful. In some areas of the world this tradition
In the First Reading for this celebration, we hear of a very brief victory
party. The chapter from which these verses are taken is a history of a battle
waged against a dominating ruler. Abram has assisted the kings in their
war and so the king of Jerusalem, aka Salem, blesses God and God’s servant
Abram for their deliverance. Abram is blest in the sharing of bread and
wine according to custom and then makes an offering in thanksgiving. Abram
was blest and so he could be generous in response.
The Gospel-story appears in all four narratives of the life of Jesus, but
Luke has his own ideas about its purpose. The chapter from which these verses
are taken begins with the sending of the Twelve, or Apostles. They are sent
off to proclaim the Good News, but they are not to take extra provisions.
They return telling Jesus about all they had done and seen. Jesus takes
them off to a lonely place to rest and reflect, but this large crowd comes
looking for them. When the day grows late a tension arises about the “feeding”
of such a large number.
Jesus tells them to feed the crowd themselves, but they reply in terms
of their poverty; they have not much. The tension is resolved when Jesus
takes what little they have and he blesses the bread and fish, giving thanks,
he hands the food to the apostles to set before the crowd. The scene has
all the markings of a liturgy. When the distribution was complete there
was a gathering of fragments. All were satisfied. “Blessed are the poor
and blessed are those who hunger.”
There is a type of ordination ceremony in this reading. The Apostles are
to break bread for the healing of the faithful. Those wishing to be fed
had to gather together and “sit down”. They had to show some sign that they
were both hungry and open to receive. So the story goes that the Apostles
were sent out with nothing and return with much. They had little to offer
the crowd and at the end there were twelve basketsful. God does much with
Recently I celebrated the Mass of Resurrection for a very dear friend.
I had gone to his farm a few weeks before to celebrate the Eucharist with
him and his wife. At the conclusion I put my hand on his arm and said, “John,
to know you, to really understand who you are, one would have to understand
the Eucharist.” In a soft voice, he replied, “That’s right.” This couple
assisted at the Eucharist every day, but that is not what I am referring
to, exactly. Frequency of celebrating the Eucharist is one thing, but the
close identification with its meaning is more important. There are some aspects
or elements of Christ’s Body in the Eucharist which begin to transform the
body of Christ who are his members.
In the Eucharist there lies more than meets the eye. The physical elements
are simple and ordinary. These are embraced and their real presentation
is hidden from some and venerated by those who have eyes to see beyond what
they see. As Hopkins wrote, in all things, “there lives the dearest freshness
deep down things.” Those who know their persons as the Body of Christ see
themselves and others in that blessed sense that there indeed lives Christ
deep down inside us all.
Christ in the Eucharist is Jesus’ being offered as invitation to be received.
Availability, yet reserved, Jesus is a gift offered, but not demanding to
be accepted. My friend John and so many others, lived gently, generously
available, but quite understanding those who refused the present. Love desires
to be expressed and received, but when it is not, it remains love for another
The Corpus Christi processions continue every day then when we as members
of that Body walk through the streets and isles and corridors of our days.
The Eucharist feeds us to be what the Eucharist ordains us to do. We do
not hurry from church to church to catch sight of the consecrated bread.
We hurry from one church out into the church of the world to be available,
offered, abidingly present so that those in the streets will see Christ
in his body, still present, still being more than meets the eye.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live in me and
I in them.” John 6: 5,7