The Mysterious, Miraculous Priest
User's Guide to Sunday, May 29, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Sunday, May 29, is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Year C). Mass Readings: Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:1- 4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, 6-10; Luke 9:11-17
Imagine what Jesus must have seemed like to the crowds that ate with him in today’s Gospel. Here was this mysterious figure, not an official of the synagogue, not a Levite, but nonetheless a man who spent the day teaching them about God.
Then, when it came time to eat, an extraordinary thing happened: He blessed and broke five loaves of bread and two fish and fed them all with it: 5,000 men, many with their families.
The miracle of the loaves is repeated in all of the Gospels, and we know what kind of stir it caused: Some people wanted to make him king after that; others became devotees. In the Gospel of John, when he clarified that he has come to bring not bread but his flesh, many departed from him, and Judas decided to betray him.
The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish is the miracle that makes the Eucharist possible.
Today’s readings for Corpus Christi focus on another pre-requisite for the Eucharist: the mysterious, miraculous priesthood that makes the Body and Blood of Christ available to every generation.
In the first reading, we meet Melchizedek, a priest who is also a king of “Salem” — Jerusalem, the city of Zion. He comes bearing bread, wine and a blessing, and Abram gives him a 10th of his possessions. We know what comes after that: Abram’s life begins to change. The calling he heard to leave his home and found a great nation begins to take shape.
Abram’s meeting with Melchizedek changed the trajectory of his life. So does ours with the priest. The priest is a singular figure in our lives. He has the power to bless and unite us with the prayer of the Church, in a way that brings grace to our lives.
The Catechism calls Melchizedek “a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ.”
“Christ is the source of all priesthood,” it says. “The priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ” (1548).
Paul describes how this happens in the Eucharist: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body. … Do this in remembrance of me.’ … For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
This is how it always works with God: We give a little, and we get back a lot. Melchizedek receives a tithe and gives a blessing. Jesus gets five loaves and a couple of fish; the hungry get more food than they can handle. We give him bread and wine; he gives us back eternal life.
And at the center of it all is the priest. The Catechism says that, just as “The redemptive sacrifice of Christ … is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church,” so “the one priesthood of Christ … is made present through the ministerial priesthood” (1545).
“You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek,” says today’s Psalm, in words that are repeated at ordination ceremonies.
The priest is a singular figure in our lives. Most importantly, he has the power to bring us the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
His book What Pope Francis Really Said is available for preorder at Amazon.com.
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- May 29-June 11, 2016