St. Paul pointed out (cf. Romans 5: 1-5) that within the Body of Christ we are living in a “truer reality” beyond the reality perceived by our senses. Conventionally, what passes as reality can keep us away from living truly as embodied spirits made for a share in the eternal glory proper of the Holy Trinity. On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we explore deeply the “truer reality” of a God who is totally “engaged” in our lives.
This exploration begins 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:
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. Hebrews 7:3
This priest, seemingly without human roots, is a prefiguration of Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest. Melchizedek provides for Abram’s sacrifice two simple, ordinary, yet extremely symbolic gifts: bread and wine. Bread represents the most common staple to sustain life; and wine is the most everyday source of merriment and celebration: (cf. Psalm 104: 15; Ecclesiastes 9: 7 and 10: 19).
Today, we are exposed to God’s unique logic. We should see a mysterious “chain of life” made visible by the simple gifts of bread and wine linking “God’s chosen people” from Abraham to his descendants, to Jesus, to each one of us and to countless other people, all famished for more abundant life, and all headed for an endless future in which they will be fully satisfied and forever joyful.
Ever since that first sacrifice, Melchizedek’s simple and symbolic gesture set in motion God’s generous response, for he remained undeterred by his people’s many broken covenants. Ultimately, in Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand, the Father’s generosity heads for its apex. Those fed by the compassion of the Lord are over five thousand men and the divine generosity is such that twelve baskets of leftover scraps are collected. The “chain of life” reaches its apex and displays, in a bloodless way, the extent of his love in the Upper Room and, on the following day, on Calvary in a horrific, bloody fashion. So, in less than 24 hours, humanity’s simple staples of nourishment (bread) and of merriment (wine) are transformed into the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus.
If we follow God’s logic, which is always so strikingly different from human logic, we must believe that Jesus, the Gift from the Father’s generous hands, was prefigured by Melchizedek’s humble oblation of bread and wine and is, even so, meant to satisfy the ageless needs of humanity for life and for lasting sources of joy and merriment.
Once we begin to truly appreciate the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ so readily available to us in Holy Communion, we are bound to realize that we undergo a radical transformation caused by the assimilation of the flesh and blood of our Lord.
Again, following God’s uncommon logic, 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.
Jesus’ order: “Give them some food yourselves” turns, then, into the only possible conclusion we ought to draw if we are now adopting God’s logic.
As we pause to reflect on it a bit further, we realize that it calls for considerable dying to our “self.” As often as we take part in the Holy Sacrifice of the Cross and we approach the altar for Holy Communion, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26
This solemn 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, but only what is vitally important, of extreme significance and/or bound to make a substantial difference.
Hence, 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 selfishness and make ourselves ready for a loving service of others, 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: to consider others as more important than ourselves and of placing their wellbeing ahead of our own. (cf. Philippians 2: 5- ff.) and we begin to reason according to God’s logic, we will soon find in the wine of the Eucharist the best source of merriment.
According to this inspired 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 stop thinking about our own comforts and we ignore our hurts to serve others with serenity and a joyful disposition.
Hopefully, at the end of this brief reflection on the Eucharist, we agree with a famous phrase from Vatican II that the Eucharist is the source and summit of [our] whole Christian life. Such is the divine logic made accessible to us for the right disposition in receiving the Lord in Holy Communion.
According to this logic, there cannot be a more suitable way of benefiting from this, the greatest Gift we can possibly receive from the hands of our Father and, also, the surest pledge of immortality and of the eternal merriment awaiting us.
However, every time we approach the altar to receive the Lord in Holy Communion, we must show evidence that our mind is wholly focused on the Gift, our heart completely consumed by longing and our body language, our demeanor and our countenance show unmistakably that we truly believe in the real presence of our Lord and God under the humble species of bread and wine.