Sunday, June 19, 2022

Who We Are Meant To Be

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (C)

Readings: Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 109 (110): 1-4; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26; Luke 9: 11-17

Picture: By Bing Hui Yao on Unsplash

My dear friends, do you remember that familiar story of how an eagle’s egg was once placed in a chicken coop? It hatched, and the eaglet grew up thinking it was a chicken, imitating all that chickens do, scratching in the dirt from dawn to dusk. Then, one day, it happened to look up, and saw another eagle, soaring majestically among the clouds. After staring for a moment, in wonder and admiration, the eagle went back to scratching in the dirt for the rest of its days.

Contrary to what some might think, the current shortage of fresh chickens is not the reason for retelling this story. I’m not suggesting that we eat eagles instead. The story is a tragedy of mistaken identity, of forgetting who one is meant to be. But what is our true identity? Who are we meant to be? I think his is the question our Mass readings invite us to ponder today.

In the gospel, by teaching, healing and then feeding the crowds, Jesus is not just meeting their physical needs. He is performing a prophetic action, pointing to a deeper meaning. In feeding the five thousand, Jesus does four things to the food: He takes and blesses. He breaks and gives. And, we’re told that after all had eaten, the leftovers filled twelve baskets.

Taking and blessing, breaking and giving. These are the same four actions performed whenever we gather for the Eucharist. And the second reading tells us that the Eucharist points to something even more. For Jesus asked us to do it as a memorial of him. Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death. And Jesus’ death was not just the routine execution of a random criminal, but the voluntary self-offering of one who, like Melchizedek, is both king and priest. The Lord laid down his life in a kingly act of loving service. To reconcile, as priest, the world to God.

So the feeding of the five thousand points to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist points to the Lord’s death as priest, prophet and king. But what then is the fruit of the Lord’s Dying and Rising? What did he leave behind? We believe, of course, that he left us his Real Presence in the Eucharist, his Body and Blood. But isn’t there something else? Something to which the twelve baskets of leftovers refer? Doesn’t the Lord also remain truly present in a gathering of people, also known as the Body of Christ, of which we are all members?

And isn’t this what Corpus Christi is also about? In addition to  the eucharistic host, we also celebrate our identity as a eucharistic people. This is who we are called to be. A priestly, prophetic and kingly people, called not just to celebrate the Eucharist here in church, but also to let our celebration inspire us to live eucharistic lives out in the world. Fulfilling ordinary daily responsibilities in ways that bear witness to the love of God. Laying down our lives in loving service, not just to family and friends, but also to those in greater need.

Sisters and brothers, if this in broad strokes is how Christians are meant to soar like eagles, then what must we do to help each other avoid simply scratching in the dirt today?

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