Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He pronounced this blessing:
'Blessed be Abraham by God Most High,
creator of heaven and earth,
and blessed be God Most High
for handing over your enemies to you.'
And Abraham gave him a tithe of everything.
The Lord's revelation to my Master:
'Sit on my right:
I will put your foes beneath your feet.' (R./)
The Lord will send from Zion
your sceptre of power:
rule in the midst of all your foes. (R./)
A prince from the day of your birth
on the holy mountains.
From the womb before the daybreak
I begot you. (R./)
The Lord has sworn an oath he will not change.
'You are a priest for ever,
a priest like Melchizedek of old.'
You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek. (R./)
Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord.
This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me." In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me."
Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.
Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing. It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, "Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here."
He replied, "Give them something to eat yourselves." But they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people." For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, "Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty."
They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.
One could focus today on the Real Presence, or about Eucharist as a channel of grace, or its effect of building us into the body of Christ. But on this feast of Corpus Christi we can centre on a verse from the Eucharistic Prayer: Do this in memory of me. Why is this so central? Because it has succeeded so well, over the centuries. Jesus did not want his teaching and his example of mercy to be forgotten. He did not want his command to love one another to be forgotten. He did not want his life and his sacrifice to be forgotten. And in the Eucharist he is forever remembered, in a way that gives us life.
The Egyptian Pharaohs built mammoth stone structures in the middle of the desert so that their names would ever be remembered. But who remembers the names of the Pharaohs commemorated by the Great Pyramids? What Jesus did was much simpler. He took two staples of household food, Bread and Wine, and told his friends that each time they gathered for a meal with prayer they would have him with them. How well it has worked!
In the early days the Christians met in family homes to eat the bread and drink the wine. But for our Eucharist these days we do not meet in homes, nor do we recline at tables for this meal. For practical reasons we now gather in large buildings specifically built for the purpose. Despite differences in the ritual, we still gather around the world each weekend and remember him. We remember Jesus, his compassion, his life, his forgiveness, his teachings, his miracles, and his love. Clearly, he wanted to be remembered like this, and he is. As Paul wrote, "time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death"; but we are also gladly aware of his living presence among us.
Notice that in order to feed the hungry crowd, Jesus himself does not distribute the food. He tells the twelve to do that. They saw what limited resources they had and decided that they could not provide for everyone. Our church leaders today seem to have made a similar decision. Since we do not have the resources to provide the Bread of Life for all, we must cut back to what we think we can provide. So parishes are clustered, churches are shut, and we hunker down, praying that new vocations will somehow arise. But are we trying to put new wine into old-wineskins, the clerical structures of yester-year?
We need to listen harder and hear Jesus say: "Your job is to provide what is necessary." If we cling to our limited perception of resources, our five loaves and two fish for the more than five thousant, we lose. It seems a contradiction of this Gospel reading to say that we may not draw on the cooperation of many others to ensure that all without exception can receive the food. If we use our resourceswell and invite many others to provide and distribute the Bread of Life, we can discover what the twelve discovered: they received back a full basket for each of the givers.
Jesus did not pitch his tent among us to live in a tabernacle or ciborium, nor in bread and wine. Food is for the feeding of the people. The purpose of the Real Presence in the Eucharist is to feed the people, so that we will be Christ's living presence in the world today. With him, we too are the Bread that is to be broken for the life of the world. (Padraig McCarthy)
Sitting together at table for a meal can create a special feeling of intimacy. Hopefully all of us have warm memories of companionship like that. Many of these will be happy experiences of celebration and laughter, of love received and shared. Sometimes the meal may have been on some sad occasion, when we were acutely aware of someone dear who has passed on. Jesus shared many meals with his followers. Often it was while dining together that he shared with them his vision of God's kingdom, the focus of his own heart and spirit. Of all the meals he shared with them, the one that stayed in their memory more than any other was their last supper, on the eve of his passion and death. St Paul tells some of what was said at that last supper, and what it means to celebrate it still.
At this last supper Jesus did more than share his vision with the disciples; he gave them himself as he had never done before, in a way that anticipated the death he would die on the following day. In giving himself in the form of bread and wine, he promised to nourish and support them, to be their food and drink. In sharing this special, spiritual meal, they were to take their stand with him, give themselves to him as he was giving himself to them.
It was because of what Jesus did and said at that las supper that we are gathered here today. He meant his last supper to be a beginning rather than an end. It was the first Eucharist. Ever since then, his church has gathered regularly in his name, to follow his instructions -- taking bread and wine, blessing both, and giving them as food and drink to his disciples, to help them follow him.
Jesus still asks his followers to live by his values and walk in his way, even if is the way of the cross. Whenever we receive the holy Eucharist, we are trusting him to satisfy our deepest needs. We are also promising to be faithful to him. This is a holy, solemn promise. Our familiarity with daily Mass might make us forget its central meaning. It's like being in that upper room with the first disciples, and making Jesus our our bread of life.