Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) Year C 2022 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 109 (110):1-4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17
There are episodes in life that challenge us to broaden our minds, widen our horizons, enlarge our hearts and stretch our capacity to love. Since becoming a bishop, these episodes seem to me to have increased in both frequency and intensity. I am privileged to have experienced the presence and the power of God in ways that I could not have imagined.
One of those experiences comes from my interfaith engagements. I feel the force of Jesus’ example of going beyond my faith tradition and reaching out to those who are different. When we are open to the God who breaks barriers of race, nationality, religion, gender etc., we can be transformed and enriched.
The feast of Corpus Christi reminds us of our call to follow the way of Jesus, who came that everyone might have a dignified life. We are called to be his body broken and his blood poured out for others. The Eucharist strengthens us and sustains us as we follow the way of Jesus in transforming lives and relationships and thus bringing about God’s plan for all humanity.
Scriptures today challenge us to be open to God who comes into our lives, even in unexpected ways. We must learn to encounter the living Christ beyond fixed walls and boundaries. More importantly, we must learn to witness to him in our acts of solidarity, hospitality and service to others.
In the first reading, we witness an interesting encounter between Melchizedek and the patriarch Abraham. This took place after Abraham had against all odds routed the four Assyrian kings, representing the four corners of the world. Melchizedek, the foreign king and priest, blesses both Abraham and the God of Israel who had delivered the victory to him. In doing so, he acknowledges Abraham as the bearer of the covenant and the God of Israel as the sovereign God not only in Jerusalem but over the whole world.
This story makes clear that God can use outsiders like Melchizedek to reveal his purpose. It was a foreigner, like the widow in Elijah’s story, who showed Abraham hospitality and strengthened his commitment to the covenant. Later tradition sees in him as foreshadowing the life and ministry of Jesus. The letter to the Hebrews makes this link by stating that his priesthood – like that of Melchizedek – is not determined by his bloodline. Believers are able to approach him for he is able to sympathise with and intercede for us.
In the Gospel, Jesus is presented as the new Melchizedek. He feeds the people with a meal that is symbolic of God’s intent to care for all. In other words, it is not meant to satisfy the hunger of some people some of the time, certainly not just a miraculous feeding for a lucky crowd. Rather, because it is a sign of God’s care for the hungry and the poor of this world, all who partake of this meal must commit to God’s vision of justice, communion and abundance for all. They must follow the example of the Anointed One who changed a harsh reality into a celebration of hope.
It is no accident that Jesus used the Eucharistic formula in transforming the scarcity of the loaves and fishes into God’s meal of abundance for all. This meal was to prefigure the ultimate act of God’s self-giving on the cross. It was to foreshadow the divine hospitality and abundance of the kingdom. The 12 baskets of leftovers were also symbolically significant. It was a way of saying that the feeding points to the new Israel in which there will be no hunger, poverty, inequity but plenty for all (Isaiah 25). Those who partake of God’s meal cannot remain indifferent to any mismatch between divine abundance and human need. They must feed the hungry people with God’s gift of abundance. Their loaves and fishes of scarcity when shared with trust and generosity will be transformed.
To eat his flesh and to drink his blood is to participate in his life-giving death and resurrection. The Eucharist commits us to be Christ’s transforming presence in the world. For like him, we must suffer with others, be vulnerable with the vulnerable, be last with the least and be powerless with those without power. We are reminded of the many meals Jesus shared with the poor, the hungry, the sinner, the disenfranchised and the marginalised.
Sisters and brothers,
Like Abraham, we are strengthened to walk the journey of faith by the gift of bread and wine transformed into Christ’s body and blood. Let us pray as we share in this Sunday Eucharist that we may live out the call to be a people of compassion and communion. May we grow daily into the Eucharistic Christ who reaches out to all people and leads them to the heart of God. May we model our lives on the one who came to that all have life and have it to the full.
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