Priests, Bread, Wine and Jesus
User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes
Sunday, June 6, is the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in the United States (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II). Friday, June 11, is the solemnity of the Sacred Heart and the closing of the Year for Priests in Rome during an international gathering of priests.
On Wednesday, June 9, Pope Benedict XVI will have his 10:30am general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
On Thursday, June 10, at 6pm he will hold a prayer vigil with priests.
On Friday, June 11, the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass at 10am in St. Peter’s Square to conclude the Year for Priests.
It’s now your last chance to celebrate the Year for Priests. If you haven’t yet, put one of the “Top 10 Priest Movies” from the Register’s Top 100 Catholic Movies List into your watching queue.
This list represents U.S. movies in which a main character is a priest. It omits movies focused on a bishop or a pope:
1. The Scarlet and the Black (1983) (More than one of our kids call this “my favorite movie.”)
2. The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
3. The Mission (1986), mature audiences
4. Going My Way (1944)
5. The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) (This is a very thoughtful movie about the meaning of a vocation.)
6. On the Waterfront (1954) (This one isn’t as purely a “priest movie” as the others, but Tom thinks it still counts.)
7. I Confess (1953)
8. Boys Town (1938)
9. Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999), mature audiences
10. The Exorcist (1973), mature audiences
11. Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) (The French films Monsieur Vincent (1948) and Diary of a Country Priest (1951) from the Top 100 list would come before Angels With Dirty Faces if foreign films counted.)
Here are two priest movies whose votes didn’t rank in the Top 10:
97. The Hoodlum Saint (1946) (This one would definitely be in our personal list of Top 10 priest movies.)
100. Padre on Horseback (1977) (Tom loves that this one is about his home state of Arizona, but apart from that, the movie is very hard to love.)
Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:1-4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17
Corpus Christi is all about Jesus making an “object lesson.”
There’s the old Aesop fable of a farmer who made an “object lesson.” His sons were arguing, so he took them out in the field and bundled sticks together. He handed it to each in turn and asked them to break them. They each tried. They each failed.
Then he unbundled the sticks and passed them around. “Break them,” he said. And they all easily broke. The moral: Divided we are weak. Unity makes us strong.
The object lesson for today starts in the Old Testament.
Bread and wine were important long before the Eucharist. They were what Melchizedek, the mysterious priest, offered. They were staples of the diet of the Jewish people — and, really, of all people. But they are both foods that require imagination, effort and intelligence to make. You don’t get bread without harvesting wheat, threshing it, grinding it, making dough and baking it. You need planning, technology (if grinding implements and ovens count as “technology”), and you probably need help. The same with wine. The grapes need to be grown, protected from birds and animals, crushed, pressed, fermented, and then served at the right time.
In other words, these aren’t just staple foods, like berries or nuts — they are staple foods of human beings who live in community.
Christ takes these as the matter for his sacramental transformation. He decides to be “always with us” in the form of bread and wine. Think of the object lessons this teaches us:
1. We have heard — and sung — about the way wheat is gathered from everywhere to make one loaf. That’s an object lesson. But so is the fact that bread and wine are made by communities. God comes to bless us corporately, not individually.
2. Christ, by taking the form of something which we eat, is saying very clearly that he wants to be one with each of us.
3. Christ, by taking the form of something we eat all together at the same time, is saying very clearly that he wants to be the single factor which gathers us and bonds us together as a community.
All of which is to say that in the Eucharist, Christ is making the same point as Aesop’s farmer: Divided we break easily. Unity makes us strong. Only with Christ, that unity is not just with each other, but with God, too. And that strength is omnipotent.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.