The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 15, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Share the gift of Christ with happiness

Just as Christ gave thanks to the Father, we are to give thanks to God

June 17, Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

"Happy are those who are called to his supper," are words which we hear at each Eucharistic celebration. Today as we reflect on the meaning of the feast of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we remember that it is with joy and happiness that we share the gift Christ has given to us of himself.

The readings of this feast were chosen to highlight this living presence of Christ. Through them we know more about what this gift of Christ means. In the language of the Eastern Churches this is a "mystical meal." In the words of Thomas Aquinas it is the "pledge of future glory." The emphasis then is not on what it is but what we do in remembering Christ's command to do this in memory of me. The name itself gives us the clue "Eucharist" or thanksgiving. Just as Christ gave thanks to the Father so we are to give thanks to our God.

The rite described in our first reading is one in which Melchizedek gives thanks probably for a victory by Abraham over his foes. The words of this priest are not only a blessing of Abraham but also words of praise directed to the God of Abraham. The figure of Melchizedek became, very early in Christian thought, a type for understanding Christ as a great high priest. This was not in the fashion or manner of the high priests of Israel descended from Aaron but a special person who like Christ offered gifts to God.

Our second reading is a description by Paul of how to appropriately celebrate the Eucharist. This was his concern in reminding the Corinthians of what they were doing. It is the oldest text in scripture that tells about this celebration. Paul tells the Corinthians he had received this tradition from the first disciples and he had, in his first visit with them, passed on what Christ had done. The words are important for they tell them how to celebrate this action. They are words, which emphasize the need to remember what Christ had done. Christ had identified the bread as his body and the cup of wine as his blood. Paul had charged the Corinthians, as he himself had been charged, to repeat what Christ had done.

The emphasis is on thanking God and sharing this memorial. The Last Supper is presented as a symbolic and prophetic action pointing to the death of Christ. In this remembrance of the meal they would be sharing in Christ and his action. It points us to the realization that what we say and do is a remembering of the past, a present event, and a promise of what will be. "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

The Gospel reading recalls Christ's feeding of the multitude. Today just as it was in the mind of the Evangelist, Luke, the emphasis in not on the spectacular or miraculous, but on Christ as teaching. Luke knew his community celebrated the Eucharist and now in telling the story he reminds them that they live in Messianic times. They were receiving the new manna or food which Jewish expectation had believed would be given when the new age would begin. The heavenly banquet would be one of great abundance. The Eucharist would be a never-ending feast. So the bread and fish prefigure what Christ would do at the Last Supper and continue to do in the actions of all future disciples of Christ. Truly we should be happy to be called to this supper.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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