In his Letter to the Romans 5:1-5, St. Paul points out that within the Body of Christ we are living in a “truer reality” beyond the reality perceived by our senses. What passes as reality can, actually, keep us away from living truly as embodied spirits made for a share of the eternal glory proper of the Holy Trinity.
On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we explore more deeply the “truer reality” of our God totally engaged into our lives. This exploration is set in motion by contemplating the mysterious figure of Melchizedek. Melchizedek, king of [Jeru]Salem, appears on the scene of Genesis 14:18-20, out of nowhere, hence we read the following comment in the Letter to the Hebrews (7:3): Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
This priest, seemingly without human roots, is a prefiguration of Christ, the eternal high priest. Melchizedek offers to Abram two simple, ordinary, yet extremely symbolic gifts: bread and wine. Bread represents the obvious, most ordinary staple to sustain life; and wine is the obvious, most ordinary source of merriment and celebration: (see Psalm 104:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7 and 10:19 as a short list of biblical texts on wine, togetherness and shared joyfulness).
Today, we should be open to see a mysterious “chain of life” made up of the simple gifts of bread and wine linking “chosen people” from Abraham, to his descendants, to Jesus, to each one of us and to other people all famished for more abundant life and into an endless future in which countless others will be searching for spiritual nourishment and sources of lasting joy.
For many centuries, Melchizedek’s simple and symbolic gesture set in motion a generous response from our God always undeterred by the covenants his people broke time and again. Then, in the person of Jesus, we see how the Father’s generosity reaches its apex. Those fed by the compassion of the Lord are over five thousand men and the divine abundance is such that twelve baskets of leftover scraps are collected.
As the “chain of life” continues, in the hour in which Jesus begins to display fully the extent of his love and which culminates on the cross, humanity’s simple staples of nourishment (bread) and of merriment (wine) are transformed into the very body and blood of the Lord Jesus.
If we are caught up into God’s logic which is always so strikingly different from human logic, we realize that Jesus, too, like Melchizedek of old, is the perfect link between gifts that must come from the Father’s generous hands and the ageless needs of humanity for life and for lasting sources of joy and merriment.
Today, we should pause to reflect on the enormity of the Gift of the Lord Jesus himself under the humble species of bread and wine; and we must interpret and identify this Gift as both the gate to immortality and the only genuine means to sustain our life while keeping our heart filled with merriment and hope.
Once we begin to truly make the most of the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ so readily available to us in Holy Communion, we are bound to realize that we, as believers, cannot be satisfied only with having words of life preached to us and our wounds healed. We undergo also, and most importantly, a radical transformation caused by the assimilation of the flesh and blood of our Lord. By eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ we become Christ for others. Isolation, self-interest, ego-inflation, selfishness, aloofness and disengagement turn out to be all impossible precisely because they were always foreign to and unthinkable for the Son of God who became the Son of Man. “Give them some food yourselves” becomes, then, the only possible conclusion we ought to draw if we are now adopting God’s logic.
As we pause to think about this a bit further, we realize that it calls for a lot of dying to our “self.” As often as we take part in a Holy Mass and we approach the altar for Holy Communion, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. This strange conclusion reached by St. Paul who applies divine logic to his narrative about the institution of the Eucharist, ought to give us a long pause. Nobody proclaims something trivial or light or inconsequential. Anyone with a sane mind proclaims only what is vitally important, of extreme significance and/or bound to make a difference. We attend Holy Mass and take part in it to proclaim that, through his horrific death on a cross, the Lord Jesus proves the extent of his infinite love for each one of us and, at the same time, we commit ourselves to dying to our self, to overcome our self-interest and to a loving service of others done without prearranged limits or a strict timetable.
If our proclamation of the death of the Lord has created in us a disposition similar to the one of Christ (see Philippians 2:5-ff.) and we begin to reason according to divine logic, we will soon find in the wine of the Eucharist the best source of merriment. According to divine logic and the teachings of Jesus, life is more enjoyable and more rewarding if one focuses on giving rather than on receiving.
Life yields more gusto whenever we find joy in serving others and in placing people’s wants before our own. Life achieves more value when we decide to become fighters against our own comforts and we ignore our hurts to continue to serve with serenity and a joyful disposition.
Such is the divine logic accessible to us with the right outlook in receiving the Lord in Holy Communion. So I wonder how many here present truly believe that the Lord of the whole universe is truly present with his body and blood, soul and divinity as he is in heaven. Are those scantily dressed who came to church apparently to advertise their body forms aware that they are expected to proclaim the death of the Lord? Are those who outwardly just stepped off their boat at Lake St. Clair and still have sand between their toes ready to commit themselves to a life of loving service of others? Are those whose minds and hearts are completely taken by intense interaction with their smart phone aware of the solemnity of doing Eucharist in memory of Christ? Are those who walk up the isle with the exterior nonchalant attitude of a moviegoer aware that they are meant to become as generous with their time, talents and treasure as Christ is?
I hope that my outward demeanor shows how much I love the Eucharist. I apologize if I have ever conveyed to anyone signs of disrespect or lack of faith in the real presence of Christ. And I invite all of you, who appreciate the awesome mystery we are celebrating here, to join me in prayer that all those who claim to be Catholic may show also on the outside that they firmly believe how the very same glorious and victorious Lord Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven is truly and equally present in the Eucharistic species which are not a symbol of Jesus, as Protestants hold, but truly the body and blood, soul and divinity of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and worthy of adoration as our God.
To him truly present in the Eucharistic species be all glory and honor forever and ever. Amen