LECTIO DIVINA: Corpus Christi, Cycle C
Gen. 14:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26
- Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God (s, 128, 4). Amen.
With hear well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions, for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.” They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicket baskets.
Let us now meditate on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
In this Year C, Mother Church introduces us to the Eucharist starting from a reference to it right in Genesis and with Abraham the ancestor of Israel. We are introduced to Melchizedek whom the Letter to the Hebrews 7:1 identifies as King of Salem and Priest of El Elyon (God Most High) whom Abraham identifies with Yahweh. The name Melchi means “my king” and Zedek means “righteous”. Thus we have a personality called “my king is righteous” who is “king of (Jeru)salem.” In him we have a Priest-King of Peace. To complete his imagery, he offers “bread and wine” in praise and thanksgiving for the conquest and triumph of Abraham over his enemies. If we connect all these with Ps 110:4 “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord is at your right hand,” then Melchizedek is clearly the image of Jesus at the Last Supper offering bread and wine.
The second reading from 1 Cor 11 is Paul’s confirmation of the real presence in the Holy Eucharist in the form of bread and wine. “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you” is the act of tradition. Paul repeats what was reported in the Synoptic Gospels, “This is my body” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” This kind of reporting the Eucharist strengthens our faith in the real presence, that the bread becomes the Body of the Lord, and the wine becomes the Blood of the Lord, and that we are not dealing with metaphors or symbols. But Paul reports for both the bread and the cup what was said only once in the Synoptics, “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is still strengthened by what he adds, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” At Mass we are not just recalling, rather we are repeating the Last Supper. By the separate consecration of the bread and the wine, we are signifying the death of the Lord on Calvary where his body remained on the cross while his blood was poured out from his body to the ground; separation of body and blood meant death. The Mass is, therefore, a sacrifice. When we celebrate Rizal Day, Rizal does not die again. When we celebrate EDSA Day we do not oust Marcos again. But when we celebrate Mass, by the separate consecration, we signify the death of the Lord again, and the bread and wine become his Body and Blood again. When we are at Mass, the Lord is once again applying to each one of us the redemptive effects of his passion, death and resurrection. The Mass is real sacrifice for our redemption.
In the Gospel reading, the disciples thought of dismissing the crowd so they could provide for themselves. But Jesus said that they should provide for the people. But they have meager provisions! Jesus puts them face to face with the power of creation: out of nothing the world was created by the Word; out of sterile Sarah and old Abraham Israel was born; out of very old Zechariah and Elizabeth John the Baptist was born; and out of a Virgin the Savior was born for us. Out of man’s nothingness God creates wonders. And so out of five loaves and two fish Jesus feeds five thousand men and more. “The day was drawing to a close” suggests time for the Last Supper. Then the actions of Jesus take the verbs used at the Last Supper narrative: take, bless, broke and gave, again suggesting that this was a prefiguration of the Last Supper event. Jesus was also ‘taken’ captive in the garden, ‘broken’ at the scourging, at the crowning with thorns, and at the crucifixion, and finally ‘given up’ to the Father at his death on the cross: ‘into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Furthermore, feeding five thousand and more suggests the big banquet prepared by God for his people at the heavenly table.
One more observation is to be made. Jesus did not directly distribute the loaves and the fish to the people, but gave them to his disciples to distribute. The loaves and the fish multiplied in the hands of Jesus, he was creating many out of few. Then also as the disciples distributed them, the loaves and the fish also multiplied in their hands, a prefiguring of their future ministry to distribute the Eucharist to many peoples and nations. When Jesus gives, it is always in abundance and there are leftovers. Do we give in abundance? When Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist, he is most vulnerable to our abuse. We are often irreverent, even sacrilegious, and also blasphemous as some use the consecrated bread for satanic mass or for magic. Jesus loves us so much that, knowing all the risks, he still decided to leave with us his own Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine. How much do I love him in return?
Let us now pray from the depths of our heart and enter into dialogue with God.
- 1 C0r 11:27: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.” How is my reverence for the Holy Eucharist?
- 1 Cor 11:24: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Is the Mass truly a sacrifice for me?
- Contemplate Jesus breaking the bread and juxtaposed see the priest at the consecration. Do I believe?
- Contemplate Jesus giving the broken bread to the disciples to give to the people and juxtaposed see the priest distributing Holy Communion. Do I believe?
- Final Prayer of St. Augustine
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).