The Divine Presence of Jesus is in the Blessed Bread & Wine

06-19-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend we celebrate the great Feast of Corpus Christi, or as it is rendered in the English language “The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.” Our readings this weekend are meant to be reflective of many issues regarding the Eucharist.

Our reading from Genesis is attempting to tie together the priesthood of Melchizedek as a forerunner of the priesthood to be exercised by Jesus. Also note, these readings mention an offering of bread and wine, which isconsidered a prefigurement of the Eucharist (remember that Melchizedek’s offering is specifically mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I). This passage is also linked to a blessing formulary that has its effect on the formulation of the Church’s other liturgical prayers, specifically in the preparation of the altar and gifts.

Our second reading which comes from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians continues the theme and images of bread and wine. This passage describes the Last Supper of Jesus by describing the bread and wine as a gift of Himself. We learn that when the bread and wine were the sacrifices that blessed God's covenant with Abraham, so also now do bread and wine bless those who share in the covenant ratified by the body and blood of Jesus, the High Priest.

We should also note and remember that the Eucharistic formula quoted in this reading is probably the oldest version recorded in the Scriptures. By the time Paul had recorded it; this formula had been in use for a long time and had become a fixed ritual for many. Some scholars believe that this was the formula used in Antioch which is Paul’s home city and also the first place that the followers of Jesus were called Christians. Scholars conclude logically that the minor variations in the other three scriptural versions of the words attributed to Jesus in instituting the Eucharist are the usages in the beginning and fragile Churches of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Note how the version of St. Paul is very close to what we use today in the Eucharistic Prayer. The important matter is that the similarity of all the Eucharistic formulas, from then and until now, is so pronounced because the Eucharist has always been at the heart of the Church’s faith and practice. This consistent reality is a sign that we follow closely the words of the Lord Jesus: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Our Gospel passage points out that the meal we share (the Eucharist) is continuous with the sacrificial meals of both the Old and the New Covenant. The passage also boasts that the meal is a foretaste of the great messianic banquet to come. We recognize that our Gospel passage is an instruction on the Eucharist and also on what Jesus intends it to be: nourishment for His followers. After the disciples had returned from their preaching mission, Jesus adds something new to the mission of his disciples: they must feed those who follow him. He sets before them this new task because if they can preach and heal as Jesus does, then they must also nourish those who hear the Word and form them into communities.

The author, Luke wants us to realize and remember that not just during that evening in Galilee, when Jesus bless-es and breaks the bread, but whenever His followers gather in His name to share His table and His disciples speak His words over the bread and wine, Jesus Christ is present to nourish His followers and to make them one. What happened then happens now. The Divine Presence of Jesus is in the blessed bread and wine. This is our faith and our Tradition.