Cycle C – Homily – Corpus Christi – 19 June 2022
Lectionary I Lectionary II
Genesis 14:18-20 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4 with Psalm 42, 43
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (or Isaiah 65:1-9
(Sequence) with Psalm 22:19-28)
Luke 9:11b-17 Galatians 3:23-29
You may be wondering why the readings listed above for Lectionary I and Lectionary II seem to be so vastly different both in theme and in focus. Well, it seems we have two different liturgical celebrations today. While there are some generalized rules for which one is used where, these guidelines are rather fluid and the specific choice is usually based on circumstances.
Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. Or is it? As you know, Easter is on a Sunday. Forty days after Easter is the Ascension, which happens to fall on a Thursday. Because of the make-up of modern society, most churches usually celebrate the Ascension as a Solemnity on the following Sunday. Fifty days after Easter is Pentecost, which conveniently does fall on a Sunday. Sixty days after Easter we have the feast of Corpus Christi, which technically falls on a Thursday, this past Thursday. In some parts of the world, Corpus Christi is still celebrated on the 60th day after Easter. However, because of today’s societal constraints, in many jurisdictions, the feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the next Sunday – today! – as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, or the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. And, of course, there are always exceptions!
So, if your church (either parish or denomination) is celebrating Corpus Christi, you will probably be using the readings from Lectionary I.
But, this is also the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (the Second Sunday after Pentecost). Recall that Ordinary Time is that Liturgical Season that runs from Pentecost until the end of the liturgical year at the end of November. So, if your church (either parish or denomination) is celebrating the post-Pentecost time, you will probably be using the readings from Lectionary II.
For our purposes today, let’s see if we can do a bit of unofficial and spontaneous hybridization.
Corpus Christi celebrates the Body and Blood of Christ. In other words, the whole being of Jesus the Christ as present in the Eucharist. This is another of the culmination feasts. It is a summary feast, a reinforcement feast. We know that Christ instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday. We know that Jesus’ gift of self is referenced throughout the New Testament. The feast of Corpus Christi pulls it all together. The feast becomes a stamp of approval on our Eucharistic story.
The readings for this feast show two lines of Eucharistic unity. In the first reading we hear of Melchizedek, a king from Salem (probably the forerunner of Jerusalem) who was also a high priest, who travels to Abram (who became Abraham) with offerings of bread and wine, the simple and basic sustenance of physical life. The bread and wine of Melchizedek also became a harbinger of the bread and wine of Jesus. In return, Abram gives a tenth of what he has to Melchizedek. We won’t worry about the significance of the tithe today. Note, however, that each gave to the other. Community – two very different people from very different cultures, each sharing freely with the other.
The second reading is Paul’s reiteration of the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist. Bread and wine – the sustenance of physical life – are blest, broken, and shared.
The blest and broken parts are pretty easy; the shared part is much more difficult. Jesus said to all of them (and to all of us) to take and eat and to do the Eucharist in remembrance of him. Jesus also said that the Eucharist made him one with us and us one with him. We could almost say that Holy Thursday was our initiation into the Body of Christ. This reading from Paul then becomes a re-affirmation of our mandate. We are to be the Body of Christ and to do as the Body of Christ does – to preach and practice the Gospel in all things because Corpus Christi is who we are. That means we live the message; we share our bread and wine – not only our physical food but also our spiritual food as our oneness with Jesus, as our oneness with each other. After all, we are one body – all of us. Interestingly, Jesus never differentiated or put the “all” into compartments.
Here is where we do a bit of hybridizing. The liturgy for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (the OTHER liturgy for today) includes one of the most inclusive and ingenious verses in the entire Bible. Galatians 3:28 clearly states (quote): “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” This is a wonderfully amazing passage!! “…(N)o longer Jew or Greek” means that neither nationality, nor ethnicity, nor religious preference, nor any of a zillion other demographic divisions mean anything to the teachings of Jesus because all are one. “…(N)o longer slave or free” means that social status means nothing with regard to the teachings of Jesus because all are one. “…(N)o longer male and female” means that where one falls on a sex or gender scale means nothing when referring to the teachings of Jesus because all are one. There are no barriers to being one with Jesus. There are no restrictions. All are one. Walls of exclusion are not from God; we are all one, one Body of Christ.
That brings us to the Gospel and an application of our one Jesus community. This gospel includes Luke’s rendition of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. As a sidebar: The New Testament includes several versions of “loaves and fishes” and “feeding the multitude” stories. Scholars have been arguing for eons about how many historical events there were and whether or not the numbers given – from folks present to fish multiplied – are literal or symbolic or anything else. Those things do not matter; the message here is what does matter.
We all know the basic story. Jesus had been preaching and teaching all day to a rather large crowd. Everyone was getting tired and hungry. Jesus instructed that those assembled sit down and that the disciples distribute the paltry number of fish and the barley loaves to everyone. Amazingly, the food multiplied and everyone had plenty of dinner! And, despite not accounting for where the wicker baskets came from, the leftovers filled 12 such containers.
Scholars have also been arguing about this miracle for ages. Loaves and fishes are mentioned in relation to one attendee. But, what if, when that boy pulled out his lunch and handed it to the disciples, that gradually countless other folks in the crowd opened up their cloaks and started to share their lunches with each other and that the sharing became a communion – a community, all one in the message of Jesus? And when we are one with each other, there will be an abundance of what we need.
Think about this: When we eat the basic nutritional foods, we assimilate the nutrients and they become us and we become them in the cycle of life. By eating the body and blood of Christ, we become that body and blood. We are the body and blood of Christ. And we know we are all one body in Christ – all of us, regardless of any barriers we may wish to construct.
Let us go forth and share our bread and wine and let us share ourselves, our own personal parts of this body of Christ, this Corpus Christi.
Dr Roberta M Meehan