The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 23, 2019
Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4, 4b
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The Gospel of Luke 9:11b-17
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
There were two Cajuns named Thibodaux and Boudreaux. Now I understand that most Cajuns are named Thibodaux and Boudreaux but these two were leaders. They decided that they had enough interference in their affairs and that they wanted to be allowed to do their own thing. So they called the War Dept. in Washington D.C. and said they wanted to have a war with them. The man in charge in the war dept. asked if they were crazy. He told them he had half a million armed soldiers at his disposal. Are they sure they wanted a war? Boudreaux said that he would call back and hung up. So Boudreaux and Thibodeaux talked about it and then called back and said that the war is on. The man in Washington said that in the meantime his army had grown to a million men and now they had tanks. Are they sure they wanted the war? So Boudreaux said that they would talk about it and call back. So Boudreaux and Thibodeaux talked about it over again with their guys. And again they called the war dept. back and said the war is still on. The war dept. informs them that the army has grown to a million and half men with tanks and planes. Are Boudreaux and Thibodeaux really sure about this idea of a war? Well Boudreaux and Thibodeaux talk it over with their guys and call the war dept. back. Boudreaux tells them that the war is off. The war dept. man gloats. He said that he knew that their over powering might would scare the Cajuns off. Boudreaux says no quite the opposite. The Cajuns could just not figure out how they were going to feed a million and a half prisoners of war. Credit goes to Deacon Hank Babin of St. Brigid for telling me this story.
That story is a perfect lead in to today’s Gospel reading for the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We could also call it the feast of the Eucharist. It is that sacrifice we see on the altar at every Mass and that most Holy Sacrament we have the privilege- NOT an obligation but a privilege– of partaking in at every Mass. It is at our option. An unknown minister of a different faith once said that if he believed that the Eucharist was the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ he would crawl on his knees to the alter to receive it. He said he would be smiling and shout an Amen when he received the Eucharist. Is that how you feel when you come up here to receive the Eucharist? Do you give thanks to that Jesus Christ for dying for us so that we could receive this sacrament and be in communion with Him eternally? We should be joyful that God has given us the faith through our Baptism so that we believe that the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and that when we receive the Eucharist we are brought into a Holy Communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity, the three-in-one, which we heard about last weekend.
In today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis we see Melchizedek, a King and Priest just like Jesus Christ, welcoming Abram back by bringing out and sharing bread and wine while. Simultaneously Melchizedek is bestowing God’s blessings on Abram and giving thanks and blessings to God for leading Abram to victory over his enemies. In this passage from the first book of the Bible we are seeing the precursor of the modern (since the Last Supper 2000 years ago) day Priesthood and Sacrament of Holy Communion instituted by Jesus Christ.
In St. Paul’s letter we see him telling the Corinthians that what Jesus gave to him he is also giving to them. He tells them that Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and said “this is my body. Do this in remembrance of me”. He then tells them that Jesus took the cup and said “this cup is the new covenant in my blood…do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Jesus instructed St. Paul, and St. Paul passed those instructions on to the Corinthians, the instruction “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” This comes from the Last Supper meal with Jesus before He was handed over. At that time the disciples were still not understanding of what was going to happen to Jesus. Now as St. Paul makes the rounds of various towns and spreads the good news of Jesus Christ he is very much in tune to Christ’s teachings about the Eucharist and the importance of it and for the listeners to be in communion with Christ. The dictionary defines Communion (with a capital C like the sacrament) as “ a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ’s death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ”. There is a major flaw in that definition for Catholics. Holy Communion is NOT a symbol of a spiritual union between Christ and us. It is– I repeat is– a real spiritual union between Christ and us. There is nothing symbolic about it. The priest- through the graces of God he received in the Sacrament of Holy Orders at his ordination- is ‘in persona Christi’ which means ‘in the person of Christ’-when, at the altar, he consecrates the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. There is no doubt about that. The Priest prays to the Lord saying “Make Holy, therefore these gifts, we pray, sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall so that they MAY BECOME FOR US the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The priest then raises the Body and Blood for us all to see and commands us- just as Jesus commanded the disciples at the Last Supper and St. Paul instructs the Corinthians- “…do this in remembrance of me.” This leads to another dictionary definition of communion. Those definitions are ‘intimate fellowship or rapport’ and ‘an act or instance of sharing’. We will experience those shortly together while here at Mass. And it is intimate. It is between us and Jesus Christ. Nothing could be more intimate.
So now, for a brief moment, let’s go back to the story of Boudreaux and Thibodeaux but let’s change the main characters to the disciples, Jesus Christ and the crowd of 5,000. Jesus is speaking to the crowd, healing the ill and telling all of them about the Kingdom of God. Now Boudreaux and Thibodeaux obviously had an event planner they were consulting with. He would handle the logistics for the prisoners they anticipated if they won the war. Now everywhere Jesus is going the crowds are getting bigger and clamoring to get close to Him so those who are ill can be healed. This crowd has reached 5,000. The teachings and healings are taking longer. Jesus is not in a hurry. He wants to help all those who come to Him. He was sent by the Father to save all of us. The disciples want Jesus to dismiss the crowd because they do not have any food or drink to give the crowd. Where is their event planner? Why didn’t Jesus and the disciples plan better?
Jesus knew the crowd would be big and that He and the disciples would not have the amount of food needed. Jesus wanted the crowd to remain. He wanted them to see the miracles he was doing in healing the ill. And He had a special miracle planned for this occasion. He told the disciples to gather the food they had for themselves and separate the crowd. Jesus takes the food, looks up to heaven and His father and blesses it. He then starts to break the food and gives it to the disciples to give to the crowd, and to the surprise of everyone but Jesus, there was more than enough food to nourish all who were there. Jesus wanted everyone there to see this miracle.
The large crowd can be compared to the universal Catholic Church. The separate groups would be the smaller dioceses or parishes. All separate but all united. We go to Mass, see the Priest look up to heaven and the Lord, blessing the bread and wine thus transubstantiating it into the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ. We all receive the same teachings, food and drink that bring us into Holy Communion with Jesus Christ just like that crowd did 2,000 years ago.
Why do we believe that this Gospel story of 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish feeding 5,000+ with leftovers? A few reasons. One, this story sounds familiar to all of us because a similar story is also told in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark. Those gospels were written before the Gospel of St. Luke. That makes the beginning of St. Luke’s gospel narrative in chapter 1 so important. St. Luke gives us his motivation for writing his gospel. He says “Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it all down in any orderly sequence for you…so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.” St. Luke has verified, through his own independent investigation, this story of the feeding of the 5,000. St. Lukes investigation also gives credibility to that story and others in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
A final note- many of us have socialized with friends, colleagues or clients at our homes. We plan for food and drink. I would venture to say that for most people having an event in their home is a very personal gesture to the host and the guest. It elevates that relationship to a special, more personal, level. That is what Jesus Christ does for us at every Mass when we are invited into His home and privileged to partake in the Eucharist thus becoming one in Holy Communion with Him. We should not be here because of any man, Deacon, Priest, Bishop or Pope. We should be here to see a miracle and share in that miraculous meal- the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. So when we come to communion we should be full of joy. We should give thanks for the meal we are about to partake in. We have been invited to God’s house and table to be with Him. Our bodies have become a tabernacle for Jesus.
Today we will witness the Blessing of food and giving thanks as was done over 3,000 years ago. We will receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in the same sacrament of Holy Communion Jesus instituted over 2,000 years ago. We are truly a Blessed faith. Give thanks for that.
God bless you