Feast of Corpus Christi – GOD’S SELF-GIFT
Feast of Corpus Christi
Gen. 14: 18-20 1Cor. 11: 23-26 Lk. 9: 11b-17
The Eucharist strengthens us, guides us and challenges us.
The first Adam embraced destruction of himself and others by eating the food (fruit) that was forbidden. The second Adam destroyed this destruction by offering himself as the food of the world. The first son (i.e. Cain) incurred the wrath and curse of God on humanity by shedding the blood of his brother. The first-born Son (Rom. 8: 29) removed that curse by shedding his own blood.
The feast of Corpus Christi is all about how the body and blood of Jesus sustains and nourishes the world. In this reflection, let us try to unravel the significance of the Eucharist in reference to the Ark of the Covenant. It can be said that the Ark of the Covenant was the pre-figuration of the Tabernacle. Both, besides containing the privileged presence of God, remind people of God’s presence in their midst. What was kept in the Ark of the Covenant served as symbolic reminder of God’s presence to the Israelites while what is kept inside the Tabernacle is nothing but the actual presence of God. The three things, kept in the Ark, symbolically remind us of three important aspects of the Eucharist. The three things were: (a) the urn with manna, (b) Aaron’s rod, and (c) the tablets of Ten Commandments. (“In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.” – Heb. 9: 4).
a). The Urn with Manna: God’s Strength:
The urn with manna reminds us of the strength the Eucharist offers us. When the Israelites were on their way to Canaan from Egypt, they were hungry. Manna was offered in order to fill their stomach and at the same time to give them strength to march towards the Promised Land.
Needless to say that we too are on a journey from Egypt, the house of Slavery (Jer. 34: 13) to Canaan, the land of freedom. All those who take their spiritual life seriously, are embarking upon a journey from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light, from death to immortality. It is a fact that quite often we get discouraged and inundated with a lot of hurdles in this journey. In such a situation, the Eucharist can be a tremendous source of strength and power. It can help us to gather ourselves and march forward in our spiritual journey. Though the forces of darkness may hinder our journey, the power of the Eucharist would strengthen us to march on.
The encounter of Melchizedek and Abram can be seen against the background of God’s strength, offered to Abram. Abram’s journey from his village, Ur, was not in any way a smooth and pleasant one. Abram had his share of difficulties, disappointments, problems and setbacks. He had trouble from the kings he met and even his brother, Lot, gave him trouble. However God continued to strengthen him. Melchizedek’s meeting of Abram with bread and wine, besides serving as a symbolic prefiguration of the Eucharist, also tells us that he assured God’s support and strength to Abram.
b). Aaron’s Stick: God’s Guidance:
Aaron’s stick reminds us of God’s guidance. It was the rod of Aaron, among the rods of all the leaders of the Israelites, that had sprouted and put forth buds, produced blossoms and bore ripe almonds (Num. 17: 1-8). Aaron was the priest, chosen by God, along with Moses, to guide the Israelites.
There have been plenty of people for whom the Eucharist has offered clarity of perception and lucidity of insight. Quite many people have got answer and found solutions in the powerful presence of the Eucharistic Lord to their otherwise unsolvable problems of their lives. The multiplication of bread and fish, narrated in today’s gospel, is not to be seen merely as a miracle. It has to be noted that all the Synoptic writers mention that the multiplication of bread was preceded by the preaching of Jesus. In fact, the multiplication itself was part of the preaching. Through his preaching and symbolic act of miracle of multiplication, Jesus guided his listeners to be altruistic, to share what they had and thus to a better life.
c). The Tablets: God’s Challenge:
Through the Ten Commandments, God challenged the Israelites to better themselves. Through these guidelines, God invited them to be more altruistic and God-centred. Besides offering us guidance and strength, the Eucharist constantly challenge us to grow upward.
If we read the eleventh chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we will understand that the Corinthian Church was a divided Church and this division was very visible all the more when the Christians in Corinth gathered for the Lord’s Supper. The rich ate what they had brought, while the poor were left to go on empty stomach. What was supposed to be the reason for unity became a context for disunity. When St. Paul learned about it, he was much pained. It is at this context, St. Paul writes about the institution of the Eucharist to challenge the self-centred, divisive attitude of the Corinthians.