Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|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
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.)